Condolences pour in for N.S. fisherman lost at sea: ‘It’s heart-wrenching’

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Community mourns missing Nova Scotia fisherman
Friends, loved ones and the fishing community are grieving for 27-year-old Christian Atwood, who was lost at sea while lobstering on Boxing Day. Fish Safe NS executive director Matthew Duffy says when tragedies like this happen, it has far-reaching impacts – Dec 28, 2022

A Nova Scotian community, along with people and fishers across the province and beyond, are mourning a fisherman who was lost at sea after what has been described as a “freak accident.”

The man, whom RCMP have identified as 27-year-old Christian Atwood of Barrington, is presumed to have drowned after he went overboard Boxing Day morning about 11 kilometres south of Cape Sable Island, just off the province’s southernmost tip.

Halifax’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre received a mayday about a man overboard at 8:21 a.m. that day.

A Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules aircraft, two Canadian Coast Guard ships and at least a dozen other vessels, including fishing vessels, helped with the search, but it was called off Tuesday at noon after they were unable to locate him.

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The RCMP have now taken over the investigation and are treating it as a missing persons case, according to spokesperson Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay.

“Investigators do not believe the incident to be suspicious in nature,” he said in a statement. “A missing persons investigation will remain open until the remains of Christian Atwood are recovered.”

Police have identified Christian Atwood, 27, as the fisherman who went overboard off the coast of Cape Sable Island on Boxing Day. Facebook

In a Facebook post, the Atlantic Canada Fishermen’s Association said Atwood leaves behind his girlfriend, Kristen, and a 14-month-old son, Colson.

It said Atwood was lobstering Monday morning aboard the vessel Little Weasel II in the Outer Island and Green Island area on Boxing Day morning.

In a “freak accident,” the statement said, Atwood was snagged on a line and pulled under while setting a lobster trawl. The association said he was wearing his mandatory personal flotation device but it “failed him.”

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The statement also wished a speedy recovery to the vessel’s captain, who suffered a heart attack and was recently transferred to Halifax.

“Christian’s family wishes to thank everyone for their prayers at this time and ask for continued prayer to bring him home,” the statement said.

The association also shared a trust account for Atwood’s son. Donations can be made at

‘Relatable to so many Nova Scotians’

In an interview, Matthew Duffy, the executive director of Fish Safe NS, said he had a “heavy feeling” at the bottom of his stomach when he heard the news of the missing fisherman – and he knows that was a feeling felt by many in the fishing community and their families across the province.

“It’s heart-wrenching, honestly. In my line of work here, I’ve unfortunately met a lot of families that have been in this exact situation that Christian’s family is now facing,” he said.

“It’s very, very difficult. It’s not an easy time.”

Fish Safe NS is a non-profit organization that promotes safety within the fishing industry.

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Duffy said the organization is working to arrange free grief counselling services in the Barrington and Clark’s Harbour areas for those affected by the tragedy.

The group began offering counselling following the sinking of the Chief William Saulis two years ago, which killed six fishermen and left communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador grappling with their deaths.

“It’s an avenue to help them, because in this situation you have a lot of thoughts and feelings floating around and trying to process that is quite difficult,” he said.

Noting that fishing is a dangerous profession, Duffy said any time a tragedy like this happens, it has far-reaching impacts.

“I’d say everyone, from Yarmouth to Neil’s Harbour, and everywhere in between around Nova Scotia and probably even beyond – when I say everyone has them in their thoughts, I really believe that because this is something that affects so many,” he said.

“It’s so relatable to so many Nova Scotians, unfortunately.”

He added that in the aftermath of these disasters, communities in Nova Scotia “really come together” to help those affected.

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“They lean on each other, they support each other, and I’m sure this is certainly the case again,” he said. “As Nova Scotians, in general, we want to help our neighbours.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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