Why are the fishermen dying at sea? - Macleans.ca

Why are the fishermen dying at sea?

Some say the fishermen are putting profits ahead of safety


Why are the fishermen dying at sea?Too many small boats capsize, too many fisherman die.

That’s the message coming from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB). Over the last five years, 60 people have died in accidents involving small fishing vessels, about one person per month, and the agency is launching an investigation to find out why. “This is a very viable opportunity to improve safety for all workers who earn their living from the sea,” says Brian Lewis, senior marine investigator with the TSB. “We want them to come home safely every time.”

The most common causes of death among fishermen are fires, collisions, groundings and capsizing. The accidents are usually due to a lack of life-saving equipment, and faulty or improperly maintained gear. A typical accident befell the Sea Urchin, a small fishing boat, in 2007. It was returning from a coast guard exercise off the coast of Newfoundland when it rolled over in high wind and choppy seas. The three men aboard were thrown into the water, and the boat’s owner died the next day in hospital. A TSB report found the lightly loaded vessel to be unstable and unfit for such weather.

The recently launched investigation is the first study of its kind in Canada, and will have TSB officials interviewing fishermen, families, unions and government officials to find out what turned previous voyages deadly. The Maritime Fishermen’s Union’s Ruth Inniss agrees that too many fishermen are dying, but says the problems go beyond what can be solved through TSB recommendations. Fishermen tend to do everything they can to cut costs, she says, and safety practices are often ignored if they reduce profit. Stronger enforcement is the solution, she says, along with better regional regulations. “Fishermen, in general, are risk takers,” she adds. But “one death is one death too many.”


Why are the fishermen dying at sea?

  1. This is an old story for those who have been paying attention. All you have to do is watch the Discovery Channel show, "Deadliest Catch", to recognize that in any other marine industry many of the practices on board these vessels would not be acceptable, such as having deck-crew working in such heavy seas and working a single crew for shifts that last 20+ hours. Although this is an American show, I'm sure it is generally reflective of the attitude of Canadian fishermen.

    In this vien it is also notable that the fatality frequency of fishermen is similar to that of drivers and passengers of automobiles. I have always considered it rather ridiculous that society demands a level of safety from most industries one or two orders of magnitude less than the average person accepts every day driving to work.

  2. Don't know if the writer is ignorant of commercial boats or just poor editing but the majority of accidents are NOT caused by the lack of life saving equipment or faulty gear but the fatalities may be. Not the same thing. There is a general lack of concern among fishermen about safety and indeed many cannot even swim. Their attitude is that the best swimmer is just the last to die. It is difficult to work in most of the life saving equipment that I have used on boats but this is true of a lot of safety equipment in all industries. Also when you are paid piecework in a fleet quota the emphasis is on production.