Nova Scotia

Personal flotation devices to be handed out to 500 fishermen

The Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board is spending more than $230,000 on personal flotation devices.

Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board spending more than $230,000 as part of safety campaign

The Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board is spending more than $230,000 to buy personal flotation devices for 500 fishermen. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Leonard LeBlanc has been a long-time champion of safety measures in the fishing industry. 

The retired fisherman lost his five-year-old son, Matthew, in a boating accident 26 years ago. The child was killed in an explosion on LeBlanc's fishing boat off Chéticamp. 

"Since then, it's kind of been my thing, to talk about safety, to try to help someone else from walking in my boots," he said.

LeBlanc retired from fishing last year, but remains secretary/treasurer of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board.

This month the group is investing in safety by spending part of the proceeds from its federal shrimp allocation on personal flotation devices.

'The key to survival'

It's buying 1,038 PFDs — two for every member of the group. LeBlanc said they're the key to survival if a fisherman falls overboard.

"They have been proven to save lives," he said. "The only thing we want in return is to see our members wearing them next spring."

The PFDs, which are inflated by the wearer or automatically when immersed in water, will cost more than $230,000. They are generally smaller, less bulky and more comfortable than life-jackets.

LeBlanc said the board is working to change the safety culture in the fishing industry.

He said the new PFDs are better suited to working onboard a fishing boat and there is a greater acceptance of them now. 

"At one time, I was probably the only one in Chéticamp that was wearing them and people were talking about me, but now they are talking about people that don't wear them," he said.