The committee fact-finding mission in Newfoundland and Labrador. (The Senate of Canada photo)

Commercial fishing is Canada’s most dangerous job: report

Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans gives recommendations to improve safety for fish harvesters

The commercial fishing industry sees an average of one death every month.

In a report Thursday, the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans found the commercial fishing industry has the highest death rate out of any other employment sector in the country.

In 82 pages, When Every Minute Counts looks into the maritime search and rescue missions from coast to coast to coast.

“We’re very proud of the report that we published today and introduced into the senate, and we hope that it will make a difference in increasing the safety of the people on the water,” said Marc Gold, deputy chair, on the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

The committee makes 17 recommendations after examining maritime search and rescue activities to discover challenges and opportunities. The fact-finding began in May 2016.

Four of the recommendations directly apply to the commercial fishing industry, including working with fish harvesters and safety organizations to develop a national action plan in the next three years.

READ MORE: Commercial diver from Prince Rupert drowns in Hecate Strait

Despite the decline in the fishing industry, the committee found the number of deaths is consistent every year.

Many factors contribute to this high death rate, including a lack of safety and survival equipment, hostile marine environment, unsafe operating practices, fatigue from long hours and human error.

One of the challenges in search and rescue missions is locating smaller fishing vessels — which makes up most of the commercial fishing fleet — as they are not required to carry tracking devices.

“In many communities it’s really the smaller boats that do so much of the work and are out on the sea,” Gold said.

Transport Canada enforces all vessels of a certain size to carry emergency position-indicating radiobeacon stations (EPIRBs) on board, allowing SAR crews to locate the ship. Many times, EPIRBs have built in GPS systems as well, which gives SAR more accurate tracking for the ship in distress.

The committee recommends that all fishing vessels of all sizes carry an EPIRBs, which cost between $250-$1,000 per beacon. To give vessel owners a chance to pay for the device, there is a two-year grace period suggested before its made mandatory.

“We strongly believe that the mandatory use of these devices will save lives and one of the great problems in search and rescue is timing,” Gold said. “These devices allow us to locate the boat in distress quickly and if we can get to the boat quickly, as opposed to having to circle around and search in often terrible weather at night, we can save lives.”

This recommendation was also made in 2000 by the Transporation Safety Board of Canada.

READ MORE: Crab-fishing boat runs aground on Rose Spit

Another potential safety hazard is how Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages the commercial fishing industry.

The committee heard examples of varying safety hazards, such as opening of fishing season despite unstable weather conditions, requiring harvesters to empty their crab traps within 48 hours of setting them, and allowing two licence holders to fish together on one vessel, which is not allowed in all fisheries.

“Some of the rules and regulations developed by the department – even though in consultation with fish harvesters – have, in the past, led to maritime injuries and fatalities and some continue to create safety risks,” the report said.

The committee recommends DFO gives priority to fish harvester safety when considering regulations and practices.

In B.C., the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria coordinates all rescues along the West Coast. In 2017, it reported 2,122 maritime-related incidents.

Helicopter rescue pilot project

There is no dedicated search and rescue air base in the north, where the report said has a higher number of incidents.

In 2017, there were more than 6,100 search and rescue missions in Canadian waters, and the committee expects the number to grow as warming temperatures increase accessibility in the north. Newfoundland and Labrador have twice the national average of search and rescue incidents.

The committee recommends setting up a private helicopter base in the north as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. Currently, search and rescue air bases are on the East Coast and southern Ontario.

Next steps

The standing committee has tabled the report and introduced it to the senate. Members of the committee are now trying to share the underlying message of the report, and to ensure the government takes the recommendations to heart.

“We’re going to hold the government to account and monitor carefully how seriously they take the recommendations,” Gold said.

“We want to see them translated into concrete action because as we say in the title of our report ‘Every minute counts’ and it sounds like a cliché but it translates into saving lives and that’s what’s really important.”

Read the full report here.



shannon.lough@thenorthernview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Pass Creek farmers encouraged to plan ahead to save animals

Firesmart info session planned for Monday, June 24 at Pass Creek Community Hall

RDCK chair: No comment on Castlegar Mayor’s FCM trip

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference costs about $3,600 per delegate

Three times the love: Identical triplets return home to Nelson

Katherine van der Veen gave birth to Ainsley, Olivia and Abigail last month

Nakusp bust finds drugs, guns, stolen property

Woman released on promise to appear in court in October.

More passengers travelling through West Kootenay Regional Airport

First quarter reliability and passenger numbers up at Castlegar’s Airport

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read