Canada Commercial Fishing Safety Report: 2015 Fatal Accident

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) recently released its investigation report (M15A0348) into the November 2015 person overboard fatality near Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia. The report draws attention to an array of safety risks associated with the Canadian fishing industry,

On 30 November 2015, the opening day of lobster season, at about 0600 Atlantic Standard Time, the fishing vessel Cock-a-Wit Lady departed Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia, with five crew members on board.

At 0911, the vessel reported that a deckhand had gone overboard while setting a first string of lobster traps. The crew recovered the deckhand and attempted resuscitation. After being airlifted to hospital, the crew member was pronounced deceased.

The investigation determined that while the crew was setting lobster traps, one of the traps got caught on the port guard rail. A deckhand attempted to free the caught trap with his feet, and while doing so, he stepped into the coils of rope attached to the traps. When he managed to free the trap, it quickly went over the stern, and the deckhand was hauled overboard and carried under water by the weight and momentum of the traps.

The vessel’s overhead block, which is mounted on top of the wheelhouse and used in conjunction with the trap hauler to pull traps aboard, was in stowed position as the crew was not planning on using it that day.

In an attempt to save time, the crew tried to recover the deckhand using only the trap hauler but, given the angle of the line and additional strain of the submerged traps, the line parted.

The crew then lowered the overhead block and was able to recover the deckhand. By that time, approximately 10 minutes had passed and the crew was unable to resuscitate the deckhand.

The investigation identified a number of risks related to emergency preparedness. These risks were also identified in a TSB Safety Issues Investigation (SII) into fishing safety that was published in 2012. If fishing vessel operations do not have a system for on-board risk management, such as safety meetings, there is a risk that crew members may not effectively mitigate on-board hazards.

Furthermore, if vessel operators do not conduct drills that provide an opportunity for the crew to identify shortcomings in emergency response situations, such as a person overboard, there is a risk that fishermen will not be able to respond to an emergency effectively.

Commercial fishing safety is a TSB Watchlist issue as it is recognized nationwide that the loss of life on fishing vessels is simply too great. Although regulations have been published and will likely lower some of the risks associated with outstanding safety deficiencies, gaps remain with respect to, among other things, unsafe operating practices and crew training.

For more information, visit the Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation page.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

source: Transportation Safety Board of Canada