Board calls for mandatory life-jack­ets af­ter N.B. fish­er­men’s deaths

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

A boat cap­siz­ing that claimed the lives of two New Brunswick men last year serves as yet an­other ex­am­ple of why fish­er­men should be re­quired to wear life-jack­ets, the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board said Wed­nes­day in a re­port high­light­ing a tragedy it says “is all-too-fa­mil­iar in Canada’s com­mer­cial fish­ing in­dus­try.”

The board con­cluded that un­less pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and Transport Canada re­quire life-jack­ets or per­sonal flota­tion de­vices, com­mer­cial fish­er­men re­main more likely to die if they fall over­board.

An av­er­age of 10 com­mer­cial fish­er­men die each year in Canada, the board said.

Com­mer­cial fish­er­men have long com­plained that life-jack­ets and PFDs re­strict their move­ments and make it dif­fi­cult to work with fish­ing gear.

“In nearly every other in­dus­try across Canada, pro­vin­cial health and safety reg­u­la­tions set out rules to re­duce the risks and pro­mote a safe and healthy work en­vi­ron­ment. Com­mer­cial fish­ing, how­ever, is not al­ways in­cluded,” Joseph Hincke, a board mem­ber, said in a state­ment.

“This needs to change. We want to see fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments work with lead­ers in the fish­ing com­mu­nity to help en­sure ev­ery­one can and does work safely.”

The re­port from the in­de­pen­dent agency says it was an hour be­fore sun­rise on June 16, 2016, when the three crew mem­bers aboard the small fish­ing ves­sel, known only as C19496NB, started haul­ing in lob­ster traps about 240 me­tres off Sal­mon Beach in north­ern New Brunswick, about 11 kilo­me­tres from Bathurst.

The board said none of the men was wear­ing a life-jacket or PFD, “which diminished their chance of sur­vival.”

When one of the trap lines be­came en­tan­gled in an­other fish­er­man’s gear, the strain pulled the right rear side of the ves­sel down­ward, and two waves broke over the deck, fun­nelling more than 30 cen­time­tres of water into the boat.

As the men were about to re­lease the line, an­other wave broke over the deck, the ves­sel flipped and all three were thrown into the cold water.

One of them, a 47-year-old Sal­mon Beach man, man­aged to climb on the ves­sel’s up­turned hull and was later res­cued, but the other two re­mained in the water. Po­lice said the bod­ies of a 45-year-old Bathurst man and a 67-year-old man from Sal­mon Beach were later re­cov­ered.

The board is­sued a sim­i­lar rec­om­men­da­tion about PFDs last De­cem­ber when it re­leased an in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port into a sim­i­lar ac­ci­dent in Bri­tish Columbia.

“The TSB con­sid­ers that the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­plicit re­quire­ments for fish­er­men to wear PFDs would sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the loss of life as­so­ci­ated with go­ing over­board,” the most re­cent re­port said.

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