A commercial fishing boat cruising in the Inside Passage along B.C.’s North Coast. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

In Our Opinion: Rescuing the needle in a haystack

Safety measures should be implemented across Canada's coasts to prevent fishing industry deaths

While the fishing fleet may be shrinking, and the numbers of fish harvesters dwindle, there is one statistic that has remained constant: the number of deaths each and every year.

An average of one death every month.

A new report from the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans offers 17 recommendations to improve safety and the success of search and rescue missions.

At The View, we’re sadly too familiar with covering such stories. It was only too recent that a young commercial diver lost his life near Dewdney Island. Detailed results from the WorkSafeBC investigation won’t be released for six months to a year, states a spokesperson.

What is known, is that between 2007 and 2017, there were 26 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry in B.C. and 16 were related to drowning. These stats are part of the reason the provincial agency released a campaign to encourage wearing PFDs.

READ MORE: Commercial fishing is Canada’s most dangerous job, report states

One alarming point in the senate’s report, When Every Minute Counts, was that in some regions of Canada smaller vessels aren’t required to carry emergency position-indicating radiobeacon stations (EPIRBs) on board. It’s the Wild West out there. Rules and regulations differ from coast to coast to coast.

A solo hiker should be carrying a GPS Spot when they explore the deep woods – which saved the life of one woman who fell from a 100-foot cliff in the Terrace area in August. The group she was hiking with was carrying a spot device, or an emergency beacon, and the Terrace Search and Rescue team was able to find her clinging to a ledge on a cliff.

Why it’s not required for all vessels to carry a GPS device is beyond us. The same recommendation was made in 2000 by the Transportation Safety Board.

Now, when you consider that Victoria’s search and rescue station is the smallest of the three main coordination centres in the country, and the fact that it covers approximately 2 million square kilometres from B.C. to the Yukon — 27,000 km of coastline— then it seems next to impossible to find that needle in a haystack without any kind of tracking device.

There were many other worthy recommendations, but PFDs and a tracking device seem like a good start.

RELATED: Commercial diver from Prince Rupert drowns in Hecate Strait


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