Almost an hour before sunrise on 16 June 2016, a small fishing vessel, with three crew on board, capsized just 240 meters off the coast of Salmon Beach, New Brunswick. While lobster traps were being hauled, one of the lines became entangled in another fisherman's gear. The strain pulled the right rear side of the vessel downward, reducing the freeboard. As the crew all worked in this area to try and haul up the trap and untangle the line, two waves broke over the deck, adding more than a foot of water in the boat. Then, just after the master ordered the line released, a final wave broke over the side and the vessel capsized. The three crew members were thrown into the cold water. None wore a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD), but one of them managed to climb onto the overturned vessel where he waited until another fishing vessel sighted the capsized boat. He was the only survivor.
"This kind of tragedy is all-too-familiar in Canada's commercial fishing industry, where an average of 10 fishermen die each year," said Joseph Hincke, Board member of the TSB. "In nearly every other industry across Canada, provincial health and safety regulations set out rules to reduce the risks and promote a safe and healthy work environment. Commercial fishing, however, is not always included. This needs to change," added Hincke. "We want to see federal and provincial governments work with leaders in the fishing community, to help ensure everyone can and does work safely."
The investigation determined that the crew members were not wearing PFDs at the time of entering the water, which diminished their chance of survival. If the Government of New Brunswick and Transport Canada do not require fishermen to wear PFDs for their personal protection at all times when on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel, there is an increased risk of fatalities when fishermen fall overboard.
Last December, when releasing an investigation report into a similar accident in British Columbia, the TSB recommended that both regulators, WorkSafeBC and Transport Canada, require crews on fishing vessels to wear suitable PFDs at all times on deck and that they develop ways to confirm compliance (Recommendations M16-04 and M16-05). The TSB considers that the implementation of explicit requirements for fishermen to wear PFDs would significantly reduce the loss of life associated with going overboard.
Therefore, the Board recommends that the government of New Brunswick and WorkSafeNB require persons to wear suitable personal flotation devices at all times when on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel or on board a commercial fishing vessel without a deck or deck structure and that WorkSafeNB ensure that programs are developed to confirm compliance. (M17-04)
See the investigation page for more information.