Safety on fishing boats a federal concern, court reaffirms
The province has lost a fight over safety charges against a Nova Scotia seafood company after a court ruled it does not have jurisdiction over safety aboard fishing vessels.
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia quashed the province's appeal this week of an earlier court decision.
In his ruling, Justice Gregory Warner said fishing vessels are regulated under the Canada Shipping Act and, therefore, fall under federal jurisdiction.
The case involved a factory freezer trawler that fishes out of Liverpool. The Mersey Venture catches and processes shrimp in Nova Scotia waters year-round and usually carries a crew of 27.
Following an investigation of a chemical exposure in 2005, eight charges were laid against Mersey Seafoods Ltd. under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Jim LeBlanc, director of the occupational health and safety division, said investigators had a list ofdeficiencies in the way the trawler operated, such as the use of protective equipment and training for handling hazardous materials.
Mersey Seafoods challenged the province's jurisdiction to lay charges.
"We originally made an application to the provincial court and claimed that the Occupational Health and Safety Act, being provincial legislation, did not apply to safety on board fishing vessels," said David Farrar, the company's lawyer.
The provincial court ruled in favour of Mersey Seafoods and quashed the charges. The province then appealed that decision.
The province is reviewing the recent Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruling and has not yet decided if it will appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.