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Another fisherman fatality reemphasizes the need for concerted and coordinated action to address Watchlist issue
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 3 March 2016 — In its investigation report (M15A0045) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) concluded that the master of the fishing vessel Four Ladies 2003 went overboard on 9 March 2015, when stacked lobster traps fell onto the main deck and knocked the master off the vessel. At the time, the vessel was 15 nautical miles south of Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia.
The investigation found that the master was knocked overboard while he was near the open stern, attempting to retrieve a trap and anchor that had fallen off the vessel. The remaining two crew members tried repeatedly to recover the master, but were unable to do so. Another fishing vessel responded to the distress call and recovered the master overboard about an hour later. The master was transported to hospital but was later pronounced deceased.
The investigation identified risks with respect to emergency preparedness. In this case, the crew members did not have an emergency response plan to follow, nor had they practiced retrieval of a man overboard during drills. If fishermen operate their vessels without comprehensively assessing them for emergency preparedness and do not conduct drills that provide an opportunity for crew to practice their emergency response, there is a risk that fishermen will not be able to effectively respond in an emergency.
Further, man overboard incidents are preventable by employing safe working practices in combination with physical defenses such as railings or bulwarks of adequate height. Although the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations require that “bulwark, rails, chains, wire ropes or any combination of these shall be fitted around the weather deck of a fishing vessel at least 760 mm in height above the weather deck”, this vessel was granted an exemption by Transport Canada. These items were allowed to be portable or to be dispensed with at places where they would interfere with fishing operations of the vessel. If fishermen are granted an exemption from this regulatory requirement and there is no other requirement for them to put in place safeguards to address the hazards posed by an open stern, there is a risk that these hazards will go unaddressed.
There continues to be approximately one fishing-related fatality per month in Canada. Loss of life on fishing vessels is a Watchlist issue, and a Safety Issues Investigation (SII) into fishing safety was concluded in 2012. The SII identified 10 safety issues, and in this occurrence, three of the 10 issues were involved: training, the use and availability of lifesaving appliances onboard, and unsafe work practices. The SII emphasized that the safety of fishermen will be compromised until the complex relationship and interdependency among safety issues is recognized and addressed by the fishing community. The Board continues to call for concerted and coordinated action by federal and provincial authorities and by leaders in the fishing community to improve the safety culture in fishing operations.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
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