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Marine Transportation Safety Advisory Letter 02/21

August 19, 2021

President, Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters
33 Laval Street
Gatineau QC  J8X 3G8

Subject :

Marine Transportation Safety Advisory Letter 02/21 (occurrence M20A0160)
Statement about need for registration of commercial fishing vessels with Transport Canada

On 25 May 2020, the unregistered fishing vessel Sarah Anne, with four crew members on board, was reported overdue from a fishing trip in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). A search and rescue operation was initiated, and the bodies of the crew members were subsequently recovered. The vessel was not found. The TSB investigation into the occurrence (M20A0160) is ongoing.

As part of the investigation, the TSB is examining information provided to fish harvesters by various organizations. In reviewing the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters website our investigators discovered a document entitled Planning Fish Harvester Marine Safety Training: Transport Canada Regulatory Training Needs Assessment. Within the executive summary of this document, the following statement appears:

Two-thirds of all fishing vessels are very small at less than 15 gross tons (GT) (below the size for mandatory Transport Canada registration), with only 2.5% over 100 GT. 

The portion contained within parenthesis gives the reader the impression that fishing vessels below 15 GT are not required to be registered with Transport Canada. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 requires that irrespective of tonnage, all commercial fishing vessels powered by a motor of 7.5 kW (10 hp) or greater, to be registered with Transport Canada. More information about vessel registration, including registration of vessels less than 15 GT, can be found by contacting Transport Canada or visiting their website.

Registration raises awareness of the vessel to Transport Canada, affording an opportunity for improved safety oversight by the regulator, including providing the owner accessibility to safety initiatives and programs. In addition, accurate and up-to-date registration also provides search and rescue authorities critical information about the vessel and its owner in the event of emergency situations.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada promotes the leadership of industry and safety advocates in encouraging fish harvesters to take ownership of the safety of their operations. The provision and promotion of accurate safety information by these advocates, who have a close and influential relationship with the industry, is an integral part of reducing safety deficiencies within the system.

The foregoing is provided for whatever follow-up action is deemed appropriate. The TSB would appreciate being advised of any action that is taken in regards to this advisory. The investigation report about this occurrence will include a reference to this Marine Safety Advisory letter. The TSB would appreciate being informed of any action you take in response to this letter so that we can include this information in the “Safety action taken” section of the final report. Your contribution will help advance fishing safety in Canada.  

Upon completion of investigation M20A0160, the Board will release its investigation report into this occurrence.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed by

Clifford Harvey
Director, Marine Investigations
Transportation Safety Board of Canada