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