Watchlist issues

Loss of life on fishing vessels

Added to the Watchlist on August 16, 2010

Problem

The number of accidents involving loss of life on fishing vessels remains too high.

Background

The TSB has long sought to improve fishing vessel safety. We issued our first recommendation on the subject in 1992, and since then we have issued 41 more. Despite this, however, an average of 445 marine accidents are reported annually, and 44 per cent of these involve fishing vessels. Even more tragic, these occurrences have involved an average of 12 fatalities per year between 2005 and 2009.

Although Canadians who earn their living from the sea have always known that the job carries risks, the grim reality is that a wide range of safety deficiencies persist across the industry. In particular, fatalities in occurrences such as Cap Rouge II, Melina and Keith II, Ryan's Commander, Hope Bay, Big Sister, and Lannie & Sisters II1 show that vessel stability, crew training, unsafe operating practices, and the carriage of immersion suits require greater attention.

Every time the TSB investigates an occurrence, we make conclusions about causes and contributing factors, but the truth is that many of these factors are bigger than any one event: systemic problems need systemic solutions. To this end, 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.

Solution

New regulations alone are not enough, nor are training programs that aren't supported by daily reinforcement. All of these elements must work in unison to create a change in the industry's safety culture, and to improve safety for all those who earn their living from the sea.

  • Industry needs to adopt and promote safe operating procedures and practices to increase safety knowledge of fishing vessel operators. Moreover, government should work with industry to improve training and awareness, and provide a stronger regulatory framework to support these initiatives.

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  1. TSB Marine Investigation Reports M02W0147, M05N0072, M04N0086, M04W0034, M07M0088, and M06N0074 respectively.