TSB Report Cites Lack of Beacon in Loss of Three Fishermen

Investigators found the boat was not carrying a distress communication device (and it was not required to have one on board). Previous TSB investigations have found that carrying an emergency position-indicating radio beacon can help to save lives, and the board has recommended that small fishing vessels carry one or other similar equipment.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released its investigation report Aug. 2 on a fatal small fishing vessel accident that occurred June 16, 2015, in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, reporting that the incident emphasizes the wide range of safety risks that persist for small fishing vessels. It was a small fishing vessel, an open boat with three people on board, and was reported overdue from a crab fishing trip in the bay. Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax initiated a search and the bodies of all three crew members were found the next day on Bar Haven Island. The crew members were not wearing personal flotation devices; their boat wasn't found and is believed to have sunk.

Although the investigation could not determine with certainty the primary cause or causes of the sinking, there are some clues. "With only a few weeks left in the fishing season and none of his crab quota filled, the master was under increased pressure to fish. The master had modified a smaller secondary vessel, a 7.1-metre open boat, to use for crab fishing while his primary vessel was under repair, but the modifications were not assessed or tested for stability. The investigation found that the added weight from the modifications, combined with the weight of the crew members, bait, ice, and the catch on board would have significantly reduced the vessel's freeboard, making it more susceptible to taking on water, with a negative impact on the vessel's stability. Deteriorating weather and sea conditions put the heavily loaded vessel at further risk of taking on water," according to the board's news release. "To lease another vessel, the master would have had to formally ask the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for an exemption from the Fisheries Licensing Policy for the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. It could not be determined why the master did not do so, or whether the request would have been approved. It also could not be determined whether the master fully understood that an exemption was an option or how he might have obtained one. The investigation found that there was no information about the exemption on the DFO website or in any other publication. If information about the fisheries licensing policy is not disseminated proactively to fishermen, they may not seek approval to use the safest means available to them to go fishing, thereby increasing the risk to safe fishing operations."

Investigators found the boat was not carrying a distress communication device (and it was not required to have one on board). Previous TSB investigations have found that carrying an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) can help to save lives, and the board has recommended that small fishing vessels carry one or other similar equipment.

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