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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 27 (SD27) issued notice Thursday, Feb. 25 of a COVID-19 exposure at Mountview Elementary School. (Angie Mindus photo)
School district reports positive COVID-19 case in Williams Lake elementary school

A letter went home to families of Mountview Elementary School

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City of Williams Lake seeks feedback on hosting junior hockey league team

A league expansion application in Quesnel is also pending

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

LADDER USED IN FIRE FIGHT: While smoke billows out of the second floor of the Maple Leaf Hotel, members of the Williams Lake Volunteer Fire Department fight to contain the blaze. The department was called out Tuesday morning to battle the blaze that wreaked havoc on the interior of the 57-year-old hotel. One man, Harold Hurst of Riske Creek, died in the fire. (Ernest Engemoen photo - Williams Lake Tribune, April 12, 1977)
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Ladder used in fire fight

The department was called out Tuesday morning to battle the blaze

Provincial funding in the amount of $300,000 has been announced for the Cariboo Regional District’s plans to improve the Anahim Lake Airport runway. (CRD photo)
$300,000 provincial funding to fuel Anahim Lake Airport runway upgrade

The recovery grant is one of 38 announced to support jobs in rural communities

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

Most Read