Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced funding from Ottawa for Fish Safe BC to support an education and awareness initiative in January of 2016, that promotes safe boating practices on board small commercial fishing vessels across the country.
Fish Safe BC is receiving 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. They also provide 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 program outside 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.
Ryan Ford, Fish Safe BC, said, "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."
On Oct. 4, 2016, 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 has been committed to an extensive east coast outreach process that concluded in August 2016. In March, Fish Safe had already travelled 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 actual 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’s training of Safety Advisors will extend to additional groups of fishermen in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the coming months, with delivery of the Safest Catch commencing shortly thereafter.
Over the next year and a half, 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.
Continue to check the FishSafeBC Website regularly as we will continue to post updates on our progress coast to coast in the weeks and months to come!