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Coming regulations will mean high costs for fishermen

Fishing boats head out for the season opening in this file photo.
Fishing boats head out for the season opening in this file photo.

New safety regulations for fishermen are causing concern for the upcoming season.

Ron Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, said the regulations that take effect July 13 will require fishermen across the country to have a life raft, an emergency position-indicating station and emergency suits for everyone on board.

Ron Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, said the regulations that take effect July 13 will require fishermen across the country to have a life raft, an emergency position-indicating station and emergency suits for everyone on board.

“It’s very expensive and Transport Canada says the industry was consulted, but the last time we were consulted was a year and half ago in Ottawa. At the time, they told us anyone out less than 25 miles won’t need a life raft but now they are saying that has changed. They saying the changes were on the website, but what fishermen look at the website?”

Heighton said the changes now require boats sailing more than two miles from any piece of land to have raft, EPIRB and suits on board.  This could cost fishermen between $3,000 and $6,000 a year and the life raft would need regular re-certification.

Heighton said these regulations apply to fishing vessels over 40 feet. Any vessel under this length has a different set of rules stating they still must have EPIRB and immersion suits for everyone on board.

Members of 15 fishing organizations, representing more than 20,000 fish harvesters, walked out of a meeting with Atlantic Regional Transport Canada last week over the changes to the regulations and the implementation process.

Heighton said the fishing industry wants safety to be a priority, but the regulations should have been phased in with some in place this year and more again in 2018.

Instead, Transport Canada has told them that “soft enforcement” will take place which could lead to liability issues for fishermen, said Heighton.

With less than 120 days until the enforcement date, industry was told that over 260 TC inspectors are yet to be trained and the TC communication plan has yet to be developed and delivered. As a result, some 20,000 independent owner operators will be forced into non-compliance and bear the full liability, while Transport Canada proposes a “soft enforcement” approach to compliance.

“This is a trap. If someone has an accident, ‘soft enforcement’ will not be a defence of liability before a court of law” said Leonard Leblanc, President of Gulf NS Fishermen’s Coalition.

Heighton said associations are now hoping to meet with Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau over the issue, but have not gotten any reply yet from his office.

He said he is unsure if fishermen in Gulf 26A will be affected by the new regulations because most fish close to shore, but the NFA continue to join in the discussion to support others and keep on top of the changes.

“They have to show us a need in our area,” he said.

Transport Canada says the objectives of the new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations are to reduce fatalities, injuries and loss or damage to vessels in the commercial fishing industry.

These new regulations will address a number of the Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations and are expected to contribute to a decrease in the frequency and severity of the two primary causes of fatalities on commercial fishing vessels: stability-related accidents and falling overboard.

Extensive consultation has taken place with stakeholders, including fishing vessel owners, provincial safety groups and representatives of fishing safety associations from coast to coast to coast. In addition, national and regional ad-hoc consultations sessions were held in various regions of Canada. Further consultation also took place over the years at the national CMAC Standing Committee and Working Group meetings held in Ottawa.

It says stakeholders in the fish harvesting industry have recognized the need for updated regulations during these consultations and support the new regulations. 

Since the announcement in July 2016, Transport Canada says it has been providing small fishing vessel owners with information and tools to help them meet the regulatory requirements.

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