Hello. My name is Glenn Budden, I'm an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board. At the TSB, we investigate accidents—in my case, Marine accidents. Our goal is to find out what happened, why it happened, and how we can prevent it from happening again.
Each year, the TSB receives hundreds of Marine occurrence notifications, but it's the ones involving fishing vessels that have the highest fatalities. In fact, the grim reality is that in our fishing industry an average of one fisherman dies every month.
That's why, back in 2009, the TSB began a nationwide Safety Issues Investigation into fishing safety in Canada: Our goal was to find out why the same kinds of accidents keep happening, and why the likelihood of a fishermen dying today is the same as several years ago.
The first step was for our investigators to talk to everyone, across the entire country: vessel owners and operators, fishing associations, government, trainers, unions, and—above all—the fishermen/women.
What, for example, were the common practices of fishermen in Newfoundland? What were the common policies and procedures of other members of the fishing community? How were they different from what goes on in Vancouver, or Yarmouth—or in Rimouski? We asked those same questions in 10 different locations across Canada.
We also took stock of what's been done over the years. Since 1992, in fact, the Transportation Safety Board has carried out almost 400 separate investigations, and made a total 42 separate recommendations, repeatedly pointing out critical safety issues that contribute to accidents on fishing vessels.
The TSB understands that fishing can be risky. Fishermen know this as well—they've been doing it for generations. Today's environment, though, is more complex than ever. Between regulations and market forces, fishermen find themselves balancing a commitment to safety against the need to reduce costs and make a living. In fact, the whole fishing community can be complex.
Safety shouldn't have to be an “either/or” issue. The way we see it, safety's an investment—one the entire fishing community needs to make.
The good news is, more can be done to improve fishing safety.
The TSB's Safety Issues Investigation identified 10 issues where safety action is required to achieve the goal:
What's more, we found there is a complicated interconnected relationship between the issues. It may seem counter-intuitive, but when it comes to solutions, singling them out, and addressing them one-by-one, doesn't work. It's been tried. These issues are interdependent, and any solutions need to be that way, too. In other words, the whole fishing community has a role to play.
This will require concerted, coordinated action. Federal and provincial governments must work with leaders in the fishing community to establish regional governance structures aimed at ensuring that fishermen can and will work safely.
Some of these regional structures and initiatives already exist in a few parts of the country, though only on an ad hoc basis. These include “Fishsafe” in British Columbia, the Quebec Region Standing Committee on fishing vessel safety, Nova Scotia's “Fishery Safety Association and Sector Council, and the province of Newfoundland, which is in the process of setting up a “Fish Harvesters Safety Association.”
These kinds of collaborative efforts are encouraging, because not only do they take a global look at the problem, tackling all the issues together, but they place the emphasis on what should be everyone's top priority: making sure all fishermen make it safely home.
FishSafe's biggest accomplishment is the fact that fishermen voluntarily participate in our programs. That includes The Safest Catch program, the Stability Education program, and the Safe on the Wheel program. These programs were all developed and identified by fishermen as a need. They're above and beyond the regulatory compliance, and as a result fishermen believe these programs really help save lives.
The Fisheries Safety Association is governed by a board of directors. It's a … It's made up of all of our stakeholders, so we have representation from harvesting and from processing and aquaculture, and also some advisory members from government agencies on our board. So this allows us the opportunity to look at the big picture, as a team—looking at this big picture and finding out what … you know, how can we satisfactorily address the needs of all of the industry and work together.
The Standing Committee on Fishing Vessel Safety helps to develop and advance a safety culture in the fishing industry. We know that legislation and regulations are key standardizing tools, but they also have their limits. In consequence, the whole fishing community must do its part in an approach to safety accountability. The Committee helps find collaborative solutions to health and safety issues on board vessels.
The sector council works with a number of fishermen's associations in Nova Scotia. There's probably, on any given day, over 60 associations, and one of the things that we're able to do is to provide tools and resources to those associations so they can share them with their membership.
Two years ago, our provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced funding to establish the Newfound and Labrador Fish Harvesting Safety Association, which would be an association with a specific mandate around fishing vessel safety. That announcement was in December of 2010, and through 2011 the professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board took a leadership role in bringing together all industry stakeholders—federal and provincial governments, other agencies, between the Marine Institute, the university, other stakeholders, fish harvesters themselves—to garner support for moving forward with this concept of a fish harvesting safety association. We think that by focusing with a primary mandate on fishing vessel safety where day in and day out this association can do nothing but deal with the issues around fishing vessel safety—advancing and improving safety culture, working toward reducing the number of accidents and injuries and lost-time claims in the industry, reducing the number of fatalities—we think that by establishing a board that's able to do that, we can take safety to a whole new level.
To sum up:
All ten of the issues identified by our investigation are interconnected; addressing them will also require coordinated action by the fishing community—and not only in some parts of Canada.
We need to work together, everywhere, to change the safety culture to one where the major concern is to engage in safe work practices.
That means working together—federal and provincial governments, along with leaders in the fishing community— to establish regional governance structures aimed at ensuring fishermen can and will work safely.