Plan aims to make fishing industry safer

Nova Scotia says they're working to make the commercial fishery safer. 35 people have lost their lives in the industry since 2007.
Nova Scotia says they're working to make the commercial fishery safer. 35 people have lost their lives in the industry since 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX – The province has unveiled a plan it hopes will reduce the number of lives lost in the fishing industry and make one of the most important sectors of the Nova Scotia economy safer.

The plan, dubbed Fishing Safety Now, was developed by the Safe Sea Alliance- a group composed of fishermen, their families, industry representatives, safety organizations and the government.

In total, the group made 33 recommendations aimed at improving fishing safety.

But the crux of the plan relies on fishermen themselves doing more to ensure their safety.

The plan calls for more education and awareness of safety requirements, more training and safety drills for fishermen and the development of a “safety toolkit”, an easy to use checklist for crews of fishing boats to assist in the self-inspection of their vessels.

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“We need to do something to make the industry safer,” said Dale Richardson, a swordfish and lobster fisherman from Sable River, Shelburne Co., and a Safe at Sea Alliance industry representative. “We won’t fix everything overnight, but by having everyone in the same room – industry, Workers’ Compensation Board, government, Nova Scotia Community College and the Transportation Safety Board, we’re making giant leaps forward.”

Since 2007, 35 people have died in the fishing industry in Nova Scotia. In 2015, two people have died while fishing.

The Workers Compensation Board is one of the key players in the development of the plan.

One of the worst tragedies in recent years is the sinking of the Miss Ally in 2013. Five fishermen lost their lives when their fishing boat sank in rough seas off southwestern Nova Scotia.

Although the Miss Ally was deemed sea worthy and in good condition, its sinking prompted a wide discussion about safety in the fishing industry.

The Safe Sea Alliance acknowledged that changing the attitudes of fishermen will be one of the challenges it faces in implementing their recommendations.

“True culture change takes time,” said Noël Després, chair of the Fisheries Safety Association. “While we know that some things will be easy to implement fairly quickly, there are some that are complex and will take more time. The good news is that progress has already begun, so we’re off to a strong start.”

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The Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia an the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council will implement the 33 recommendations in the report.