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Watchlist 2012

Loss of life on fishing vessels

Added to the Watchlist on 16 August 2010


The number of accidents involving loss of life on fishing vessels remains too high.


The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has long sought to improve fishing vessel safety. It issued its first recommenda­tion on the subject in 1992, and since then has issued 41 more. Despite this, an average of 420 marine accidents were reported between 2006 and 2010, and 40 % of the vessels involved were fishing vessels. Further, the Safety Issues Investigation into Fishing Safety in CanadaFootnote 1 shows an average of 13 fatalities per year between 1999 and 2010.

Although Canadians who earn their living from the sea have always known that the job carries risks, the grim reality is that a wide range of safety deficiencies persists across the industry. In particular, fatalities in occurrences such as Cap Rouge II, Melina and Keith II, Ryan’s Commander, Hope Bay, Big Sister, Lannie & Sisters II, Craig and Justin, and Silver AngelFootnote 2 show that vessel stability, crew training, unsafe operating practices, and the carriage of immersion suits require greater attention.

Every time the TSB investigates an occurrence, we make conclusions about causes and contributing factors, but many of these factors are bigger than any one event: they are systemic problems, which need systemic solutions. Concerns also remain about issues such as vessel modifications and their impact on stability; the use and availability of lifesaving equipment; regulatory oversight; and the impact of fishery resource management plans and practices on the overall safety of fishing vessels.


Concerted and coordinated action is required by leaders in the fishing community to implement a safety culture approach to fishing operations, recognizing the interaction of safety deficiencies.