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Fishing industry needs changes to better promote safety, widow says

Watch the Global Halifax Evening News at 6 p.m. from Feb. 17-21 to see all of Natasha Pace’s reports on the Miss Ally tragedy and safety issues in the fishing industry

LUNENBURG, N.S. – When it comes to fishing, an industry as rough as the waters it’s based on, no one knows the strength of the ocean better than Marilyn D’Entremont.

D’Entremont lost her husband Lewis to the sea nine years ago.

“He thought he was coming home that night, but he never made it,” she said. “It was directly because of something that was wrong on that boat.”

READ MORE: One year later: Miss Ally crew remembered

She said a big part of her pain is knowing what her children have missed without their father.

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“My daughters miss him, I know they do. When I think about their wedding day, they won’t have their dad to walk them down the aisle,” she said. “When I think about my son — he was 15 when his dad left us — and I know he misses him. He never got a chance to even have a beer with him at a campsite.”

Since then, D’Entremont has been working to prevent similar tragedies, even becoming the face of a new ad campaign promoting safety.

“Active fishing is a dangerous occupation. It’s always been a dangerous occupation. There’s a tradition of tragedy in the industry,” said Stewart Franck, the executive director of the Fishing Safety Association of Nova Scotia.

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Marilyn D'Entremont has been working to prevent fishing tragedies, even becoming the face of a new ad campaign encouraging safety. File/Global News
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Marilyn D'Entremont has been working to prevent fishing tragedies, even becoming the face of a new ad campaign encouraging safety. File/Global News

Franck has been working tirelessly to promote safety by changing attitudes and promoting best practices in the fishing industry.

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“It’s not good enough to say [someone] is doing this and putting themselves at risk. We need to speak up. We are all responsible,” he said.

Fishing fatalities in Nova Scotia account for 50 per cent of all deaths in the Canadian fishing industry.

Stuart MacLean, the CEO of the Worker’s Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, called it “an alarming rate.” He said since 2007, there have been 37 fatalities associated with the province’s fishing sector.

“It’s also an industry that…is in need of a cultural change around fishing,” he said.

Exactly one month after the Miss Ally and her five crew were lost at sea,  the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) completed its investigation into the sinking.

In the case of the Miss Ally capsizing, the TSB found nothing could have prevented it. There were no deficiencies in the boat itself, and although there was a storm coming, the crew was aware and had planned to head back to shore.

“The lights were not working. [It was] a problem with the electric, so they had to wait to the following morning to find their fishing gear and retrieve it,” said Pierre Murray, who works for the TSB. “That delay caused the storm to be on them before they had time to get in.”
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For members of fishing communities like Woods Harbour, the hope is that one day, the memorials for fishermen won’t need to have any more names added to them. It’s a long-term goal that Franck says won’t be changed overnight.

“I have to believe it’s possible,” he said. “If it were easy, then it would have been done by now.

“It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be slow. We hope to have a sustained initiative. What we want to do is make safety the new tradition.”

As for D’Entremont, when she hears about tragedies like the Miss Ally, her heart goes out those left behind.

“It’s not just the five people, it’s all the people who surround these people, it’s the families that have been affected. I lost my husband, but he was a father, he was a son, he was a best friend to many.”

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