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News release

Stability and PFD issues led to September 2015 commercial fishing fatalities off the west coast of Vancouver Island

Richmond, British Columbia, 14 December 2016 – Another fatal commercial fishing accident that occurred in September 2015 off the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (M15P0286), has led the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) to issue five new recommendations.

On 05 September 2015, at approximately 15:30 Pacific Time, the Caledonian, a large, 100-foot fishing vessel with four crew members on board, capsized 20 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The crew had been fishing for two days. After the final catch was hauled aboard, and as the crew prepared to stow it, the vessel began to list. Within a couple of minutes, water covered the deck and the vessel rolled over. No distress call was sent and none of the vessel's emergency signaling devices activated. The vessel sank about six hours later. Only one crew member was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), and this crew member was the only one who survived.

"At the TSB, we have seen similar circumstances occur far too often. In fact, on average, 10 fishermen die each year somewhere in Canada's commercial fishing industry. These deaths are nearly all preventable, and this why this issue is still on our Watchlist," said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB. "We are asking that all commercial fishing vessels have a stability assessment appropriate for their size and operation, that this assessment information be kept current, and that it be used to determine safe vessel operating limits."

The investigation determined that the capsizing of the Caledonian was caused by a combination of factors. The most significant ones were the operating practices, such as where the fuel was stored and the way fish and seawater were loaded, and the tendency of vessels to grow heavier with time. These factors caused the vessel to float lower in the water and reduced its stability, which changed its safe operating limits. The crew, however, did not recognize that the vessel had grown heavier over the years or that their operating practices were putting them and the vessel at risk.

"Here in British Columbia, roughly 70 percent of all fishing-related fatalities in the past decade came while not wearing a PFD. Yet many fishermen still don't wear them," said Chair Fox. "It's no longer acceptable to think of fishing as just a dangerous job and that nothing can be done about it. There are steps that we can take; there are steps that we must take.”

Including this occurrence, the TSB has investigated 28 occurrences in the past 10 years resulting in 26 fatalities in commercial fishing in Canada. This investigation is similar to many other investigations and that is why the TSB is recommending that:

All commercial fishing vessels, large and small, have their stability assessed; and that this stability information be kept up to date and be presented in a way that is clear and useful for the crew.
(Recommendations M16-01, M16-02, and M16-03)
Both regulators, WorkSafeBC and Transport Canada, require crews on fishing vessels to wear suitable PFDs at all times on deck and develop ways to confirm that they are complying.
(Recommendations M16-04 and M16-05)

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376