Boat capsizes off Nova Scotia, search underway for five fishermen

HALIFAX – A search was underway Monday for five halibut fishermen whose vessel capsized off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia in 10-metre seas lashed by hurricane-force winds.

The 13-metre boat, based in Woods Harbour, N.S., had a crew of five on board when it sent out a distress signal Sunday at 11 p.m., said navy spokesman Lt. Peter Ryan.

“The weather out there was very poor, low visibility and high winds and very challenging seas,” he said in an interview from the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax.

A Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter and two Canadian Coast Guard vessels — Earl Grey and Sir William Alexander — were dispatched to the area, about 120 kilometres southeast of Liverpool.

Ryan said the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft, believed to be a Falcon twin-engine jet, reported spotting a life-raft early Monday, but he couldn’t offer further details.

“There’s a wide search underway and the situation is evolving,” he said.

The warden of the Municipality of Barrington, Eddie Nickerson, said the community of 7,000 was waiting anxiously for any news from searchers.

“I know all of the boys that were on the boat,” he said in an interview. “It’s a fragile situation. … I’m pretty sure (the crew) is all under the age of 30.”

Nickerson said he believes all five men come from different families, but most of them come from the Woods Harbour area.

“The entire community is affected by this,” he said.

The overnight storm knocked out power for thousands of Nova Scotians and schools were cancelled in parts of the province Monday.

At Baccaro Point in southwestern Nova Scotia, wind gusts were recorded at 80 to 90 kilometres per hour throughout the night and much of Monday morning.

Stewart Franck, executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia, said the industry needs to find ways to prevent sinkings.

“There’s sadness, but you also get a little bit angry because we hope to avoid these things,” said Franck, whose non-profit association represents approximately 1,300 companies in the province.

“I’m sad that we’re not there yet as far as an industry. … Our hopes and prayers and best wishes go to the family and friends of the crew and the community.”

Looking for more?

Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.