Katsheshuk Fisheries expected to plead guilty in man's death

Katsheshuk Fisheries is expected to plead guilty on charges related to a death on board a shrimp vessel in 2012.
Katsheshuk Fisheries appeared before a provincial court on charges related to a man's death aboard a shrimp vessel. (Nikolaj Petersen/Shipspotting)

Katsheshuk Fisheries is expected to plead guilty on charges related to a death on board a shrimp vessel in 2012.

Aaron Cull, a 25-year-old St. Anthony man, died in February 2012 on board the Katsheshuk II. 

Cull, the factory foreman on the ship, had just inspected the cleaning of a shrimp holding tank. He was crawling through the square opening when a small shutter door closed on his neck and then killed him.

The company was charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Crown told the provincial court in St. John's on Thursday that the case would proceed according to a speedy disposition.

That means a guilty plea, unless something changes between now and the next court date.

The penalty for safety violations is a fine.

The vessel was owned by Katsheshuk Fisheries — a partnership between Ocean Choice International and the Innu Nation.

The Crown withdrew the charges against Ocean Choice International earlier this year, but eight charges remained against Katsheshuk Fisheries Limited.

The case is due back in court on Aug. 1.

Voluntary safety measures

A federal initiative to improve safety on fishing vessels remains voluntary, despite being subsequently flagged by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

One voluntary measure includes safety management issues (SMS), a checklist of procedures drawn up by the ship's owner in conjunction with the skipper and crew.

It includes everything from where the ship operates and every job and function on board, to keeping records of all those activities and the risks involved.

Transport Canada encourages vessel owners and operators to develop their own SMS.

The owners of the Katsheshuk II did create their own SMS in 2007. But the TSB found that virtually none of the items in their SMS were being followed prior to their Cull's death.

A TSB report noted that the voluntary SMS on the ship was not effective at identifying the risks and unsafe practices associated with the operation of the shutter doors.