Cultural shift in commercial fishing puts more emphasis on safety

Click to play video 'Creating a culture of safety for fishing vessels' Creating a culture of safety for fishing vessels
WATCH ABOVE: Changing commercial fishing culture and creating a culture of safety on fishing vessels. Alexa Maclean reports.

Commercial fishing is a way of life in Nova Scotia.

Every season brings new hope for big hauls and bountiful traps, but it also brings the risk of lives being lost at sea.

“You get waves that come out of nowhere. You’ll get comfortable in a certain roll and all of a sudden you get this wave that kind of tosses you and you got to prepare for it,” says Leonard LeBlanc, a retired Commercial Fisherman who spent thirty years in the industry.

LeBlanc knows first hand the unpredictable dangers a fishing boat environment can create.

“I lost my son when my fishing vessel literally exploded in Cheticamp Harbour. So that triggered in me that there had to be a culture change, something had to change in the fishing industry,”said LeBlanc.

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That’s when he became a safety advocate with the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board.

“We represent multi-species fisherman in the Gulf of Nova Scotia, which covers the territory from the New Brunswick border all the way to the tip of Cape Breton. We have 519 members all together,” said LeBlanc.

Thursday the organization announced they would be purchasing over 1,000 custom made personal flotation devices (PFD) to distribute to over 500 fisherman in their district.

They were designed specifically for commercial fishing.

“Safety is on everybody’s mind now, it comes up in the agendas at every meeting. Which is totally different than what happened ten years ago, fifteen years ago, when nobody talked about safety at all,” said LeBlanc.

The PFDs will be given out at the beginning of the spring fishing season in March.

LeBlanc says his only wish is that they get worn.

“I hope it sends a message to their families that they tell their husband or wives when they go fishing to put them on. It’s nice to come back home every night.”