"We are very busy preparing for the herring and crab seasons, and looking ahead to the salmon fishery of 2018," says Ryan Ford, Program Director, Fish Safe BC. A couple years ago, Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced funding from Ottawa for Fish Safe BC to support an education and awareness initiative (begun January 2016), that promotes safe boating practices on board small vessels of commercial fishing companies across the country. Commercial fishermen and companies with commercial fishing licence qualify for high quality safety education delivered across Canada.
Fish Safe BC received up to $900,000 over three years to expand a successful safety education program, originating in B.C., the "Safest Catch Program." This program uses fishermen to train other fishermen about relevant regulatory requirements and how to make safety an integral part of their commercial fishing business. The organization also provides fishermen with tools and knowledge needed to create their own documented vessel-specific safety management system.
With this funding, Fish Safe BC has been working closely with the commercial fishing community to expand the Safest Catch Program well beyond B.C., including Quebec and the Maritimes. The Government of Canada's financial contribution to Fish Safe BC comes from the Commercial Fishing Safety Component of Transport Canada's Boating Safety Contribution Program (BSCP).
The BSCP is a contribution funding program which aims to raise public awareness of boating safety by advancing knowledge of boating safety issues, practices and behaviours through enhanced awareness and education initiative and projects. The Program has two components – one geared towards safe boating practices on board small commercial fishing vessels and the other focussed on recreational boating.
Commercial fishing is recognized by the International Maritime Organization as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Between 2004 and 2013, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported a total of 72 fatalities from fishing vessel accidents in Canada.
Fish Safe BC is a not-for-profit organization that was established in 2004 and operates as the British Columbia commercial fishing industry's designated health and safety association.
"Our government is committed to working with our partners and stakeholders to promote safe boating practices across the country. Our investment in Fish Safe BC's initiative will help enhance the lives and livelihoods of Canada's commercial fishers by helping to reduce loss of life, injuries and property damage due to accidents on the water," said Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport.
Ford says, "In an industry where too many lives have been lost and for family members, forever altered, funding for practical training that encourages personal ownership of safety is never more timely, and appreciated. Fish Safe BC looks forward to the voyage ahead and the prospect of working hand in hand with fishermen across Canada in the quest to come home safely season after season."
Fish Safe achieved a major milestone in the Transport Canada funded Safest Catch Initiative on Sep. 26, 2016 when a small group of fishermen in PEI began their training to become Safest Catch Safety Advisors.
As recipient of Transport Canada’s funding under the Boating Safety Contribution Program – Commercial Fishing, Fish Safe committed to an east coast outreach process that concluded in August 2016. The program travelled in 2017 to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Quebec on the invitation of a broad contingent of interested fishermen and individuals representing fishing associations, unions, educational providers, safety associations and industry representatives.The aim of these meetings was to fully discuss the mandate of the project as well as funding available.
The strength of the Safest Catch program is its use of active fishermen, trained as Safety Advisors, to train other fishermen in a practical, one-on-one manner on board fishermen’s own vessels in the areas of emergency readiness, use of safety equipment and documentation of safety plans.
Fish Safe BC’s training of Safety Advisors continues to extend to additional groups of fishermen in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 2018, with delivery of the Safest Catch commencing as well.
Over the course of the initiative, east coast delivery of the Safest Catch is projected to impact 350 fishing vessels and the close to 700 fishermen working on board them. This will be in addition to activity already well underway in BC that will impact a further 500 fishermen working on well over 200 vessels.
Much work has yet to be accomplished but Fish Safe BC operators are thrilled and inspired by the many east coast fishermen who have come forward and made themselves available to learn how to effectively teach other fishermen to manage their risks while fishing.
Gratitude too must be expressed to Fish Safe’s Program Coordinator, John Krgovich as he spearheads the training on the east coast and shoulders all the travel and away from home time this task entails. A career fisherman himself and involved in the Safest Catch since its inception in 2009, "John fully embodies the passion and commitment required to teach other fishermen and to inspire them to help others take ownership of their safety while working," says Ford.
Continue to check the FishSafeBC Website regularly as they will continue to post updates on our progress coast to coast in the weeks and months to come!