TSB # M03/2009

(Gatineau, Quebec, August 20, 2009) - Citing an "unacceptable" loss of life, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) today launched an in-depth investigation into the safety of small fishing vessels across Canada.

"The grim reality is that the fishing industry is averaging one death per month," said Marcel Ayeko, TSB's Director of Marine Investigations. "Sixty people have died in accidents over the past five years, and we need to find out why."

As an independent government agency, the TSB conducts dozens of full investigations into marine accidents every year. These result in public reports that contain a host of conclusions, concerns, and safety recommendations, but Mr. Ayeko said the problem is bigger than any one event. This study, he added, is expected to be the first to provide an overall view of the situation across the country. "We'll talk to everyone: vessel owners and operators, fishing associations, government, unions, and - above all - the fishermen."

"We already know there are systemic issues," he said, noting that small fishing vessels have the highest rate of marine accidents in Canada. With over 200 incidents reported to the TSB annually, "these issues need to be formally identified - to the regulators, the industry, and the fishermen themselves - so that we can improve safety and reverse this tragic trend."

The study will also look at the risks and challenges experienced by members of the fishing community when they set out for a day's work and will be released to the public and industry stakeholders when completed. To help with this, historical data and case studies of selected accidents in Canada will be analyzed, as will occurrences from other nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and several Nordic countries. "The further in-depth we go," said Mr. Ayeko, "the more solid facts we'll uncover to help make the fishing industry safer."

Since 1992, the TSB has made 42 recommendations aimed at improving fishing vessel safety, and it has repeatedly drawn attention to critical safety issues that contribute to accidents. These include vessel stability, structural integrity, unsafe operating procedures, the use of lifesaving equipment, and the impact of fishery resource management plans and practices on the overall safety of fishing vessels.

"Sure, fishing can sometimes be risky," acknowledged Mr. Ayeko. "Canadians know this; they've been doing it for generations. But more needs to be done - and more can be done - to bring down the accident rate."

The ultimate goal? "It's simple," he said. "Improve safety for all the workers who earn their living from the sea."

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation 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.

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To arrange a telephone interview with the following members of the investigation team:

  • Mr. Brian Lewis, Investigator in Charge (English)
  • Mr. Bernard Breton, investigation team member (French)


Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053