After an already difficult year for Nova Scotians, fishing communities in the south shore are fearing the loss of six fishers that went missing on Tuesday.
The Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia tells Global News it has secured funding through the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia and the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia to cover costs of grief counselling services for those involved in the tragedy.
These services will be open to members and families of the Full Bay Scallop Association, as well as employees, families and friends of Yarmouth Sea Products, the company that employed the missing fishers and owned scallop dragger Chief William Saulis that sunk with the crew on board.
“That’s something that weighs heavily on the industry as a whole… I can only imagine how the family and friends are feeling,” said safety adviser Matthew Duffy.
“We have members of our association that have used grief counselling in the past and it’s made a very big difference for a lot of folks during those difficult times.”
On Wednesday, Yarmouth Sea Products confirmed the names of the missing crew: Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes, Michael Drake and Geno Francis, and captain Charles Roberts.
The body of one man was recovered late Tuesday, but the search continued Wednesday for five other men as ground search crews said they were seeking closure for the families. A neighbour of the man confirmed to Global News it was Michael Drake.
The search was passed on to RCMP on Wednesday afternoon as a recovery mission. Thursday morning, RCMP announced the search has been temporarily suspended due to the incoming snowstorm.
The Mayor of Yarmouth Pam Mood says the suspension hit hard as families of those missing are seeking closure.
“You cannot even put into words. The grieving process is the most important and I don’t even know if we’re there yet,” she said.
“Fishing is a way of life here, it’s not just a job.”
Mood said she knew the missing fishers; many people did because the community is so small. Now, that community is in a state of numbness.
“We just wish and hope we could take some of that pain away from the families. It’s not how that works but that’s the way we are.”
While it happened for the right reasons, Thursday’s suspension slowed down that grieving process, Mood said.
As a part of the new initiative to provide grief counselling, Mood said the Town of Yarmouth has set up one-on-one sessions with a local grief recovery specialist to get things going right away.
She said the town will work with the association, Workers Compensation Board and the Mental Health Foundation going forward, “to ensure everyone has access to the help they need.”
Duffy said he hopes anyone in a mental health crisis following this tragedy will seek help.
“It’s a long-term far-reaching effect that something like this has… Ultimately, it’s important to lean on folks around you,” said Duffy.
“I think the industry will always be there for each other and that’s a really positive thing to see.”
He said the counselling collaboration will be open to those who need it, but will not be mandatory.
“We will be working tirelessly to help facilitate these services in the coming days,” he stated.