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Watchlist 2014

Loss of life on fishing vessels


The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has long sought to improve fishing vessel safety. It issued its first recommendation on the subject in 1992, and since then, has issued 41 more. Despite this, an average of 134 fishing vessel accidents per year was reported between 2009 and 2013, which together comprised 40% of all marine accidents. Furthermore, the average number of fatalities has remained at about one per month.

In 2012, the TSB released a report on its Safety Issues Investigation into Fishing Safety in Canada.Footnote 1 Since then, with nation-wide recognition that the loss of life on fishing vessels is still unacceptable, federal and many provincial regulatory authorities, as well as fishing safety associations have begun to increase safety initiatives. But more still needs to be done.

Fish harvesting carries risks, and the reality is that a wide range of safety deficiencies persists. In particular, fatalities in occurrences such as those involving Cap Rouge II, Hope Bay, Ryan's Commander, Melina and Keith II, Lannie & Sisters II, Big Sister, Craig and Justin, Silver Angel, and Marie J,Footnote 2 show that vessel stability, crew training, unsafe operating practices, and carriage of immersion suits require greater attention. Every time the TSB investigates an occurrence, it issues findings as to causes and contributing factors. But many of these factors are bigger than any one event: they are systemic problems, which need systemic solutions. Concerns also remain about issues such as vessel modifications and their impact on stability; the use and availability of lifesaving equipment; regulatory oversight; and the impact of fishery resource management plans and practices on the overall safety of fishing vessels.


Although regulations have been proposed to address several of the safety deficiencies, there have been significant delays in the implementation of some of these initiatives.

Furthermore, new regulations alone are not enough. Concerted and coordinated action is required by federal and provincial authorities and by leaders in the fishing community to improve the safety culture in fishing operations, recognizing the interaction of safety deficiencies.