Language selection

News release

Associated links (M20P0229)

Insufficient maintenance and the absence of regulatory surveillance contributed to the fatal sinking of the Arctic Fox II near Bamfield, British Columbia

Richmond, British Columbia, 8 November 2022 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (M20P0229) into the August 2020 sinking of the fishing vessel Arctic Fox II near Bamfield, British Columbia, which resulted in the death of two crew members. This investigation highlights a number of systemic safety issues that were identified in the TSB’s recently released Watchlist 2022, specifically regulatory surveillance and commercial fishing safety.

When the master departed for the fishing grounds on the occurrence voyage with two other crew members on board, both he and the vessel’s owner perceived that the risks of the planned fishing operation had been addressed sufficiently. Their perceptions of risk were likely influenced by economic incentives, approvals and certificates, and many successful voyages. On 11 August 2020, in the early hours of the morning, the fishing vessel Arctic Fox II reported taking on water. The master attempted to deal with the water ingress and safety-critical tasks unassisted and ordered the crew members to prepare to abandon the vessel. As the vessel drifted and rolled in the sea conditions, waves landed on deck, making it difficult for the master and crew members to maintain their balance. The master and crew were unfamiliar with the instructions for deploying the life raft and, in their efforts to deploy the raft, its painter line was disconnected from the vessel and went overboard. Shortly after, the master and one of the crew members entered the water with their immersion suit only partially zipped and with ankle straps unsecured. Consequently, they were exposed to the elements and eventually drowned. The familiarization of the life-saving equipment that the crew received was insufficient for them to successfully abandon the vessel, and the crew’s response was guided only by their limited experience. The one surviving crew member who managed to reach the life raft was later rescued by the United States Coast Guard.

The investigation found that insufficient vessel maintenance and the absence of regulatory surveillance contributed to the vessel taking on water and eventually sinking. This occurrence highlights the need for Transport Canada to provide more surveillance and monitoring to effectively ensure that vessel owners and authorized representatives take ownership of their safety responsibilities and comply with regulatory requirements.

Commercial fishing safety has been an issue on the Watchlist for over 10 years. Commercial fishing continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Every year, the same safety deficiencies on board fishing vessels continue to put at risk the lives of thousands of Canadian commercial fish harvesters.  

Developing and sustaining a strong safety culture in the fishing industry is required to foster greater compliance with regulations. Safety is a shared responsibility. Regulators, vessel owners, and fish harvesters each must take ownership of safety to reduce accidents and preventable loss of life.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376