The Current

Fishermen and Transport Canada clash over timing of new safety regulations

To be lost at sea is a danger facing far too many commercial fishermen in Canada. The Current looks at what safety measures will save lives in the fishing industry and asks: When is it fair to begin enforcing new regulations?
Fishermen want more time to implement Transport Canada's Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations set to be enforced on July 13, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

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According to Transport Canada, there has been an average of 13 commercial fishing-related fatalities annually over the past 10 years.

It's something the government is trying to address with the new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations announced in July 2016.

Transport Canada says the new regulations are meant to reduce fatalities, injuries, and loss or damage to vessels in the commercial fishing industry. The industry was given a one-year period to get up-to-date with the new requirements set to be enforced starting July 13. 

Fishermen from the Atlantic provinces recently walked out of a meeting with Transport Canada, March 16, citing their frustration with the way the safety regulations are being implemented. 

Ian MacPherson, executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that part of the frustration is how the process is rolled out.

"It's not just about safety equipment, it's about stability testing, it's about some operating procedures — there's a lot of moving parts to it." 
When is it fair to begin enforcing new safety regulations on fishing vessels? (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

He explains that significant discussions with Transport Canada have taken place but is concerned of the lack of "basic training on how this is going to be rolled out and enforced."

"In December, we sat down with Transport Canada and asked could we look at certain parts of this legislation and stage it over a few years versus having it all come in at once on July 13th of this year," he tells Tremonti.

"We want to work together here but there has been certainly a sense of frustration on the whole issue."

Stewart Franck, executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia, understands significant deadlines like this one "always comes up on you rather quick." 

He took part in Transport Canada's consultation process during the creation of the new regulations.

"There has been, you know, a fair amount of dialogue on this," Franck tells Tremonti.

But says Transport Canada could be doing a better job communicating with the fishing industry.

"This is a rural industry, putting a web link on a Transport Canada website doesn't cut it in my view, " says Franck.

"Most of our work is done best, you know, one crew — one small community at a time."

 Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin, Shannon Higgins and Nova Scotia network producer, Mary-Catherine McIntosh.