Question Period: Fishing Vessel Safety

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Kings Cove, Newfoundland

Hon. Brian Francis: Senator Gold, last week, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, or TSB, released a report following an investigation into the capsizing of a fishing vessel, Tyhawk, which led to the death of two Mi’kmaq harvesters in 2021. The board observed that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO, routinely moved the start date of the lucrative snow crab fishery almost three weeks earlier than in previous years without assessing the interplay of economic, conservation and safety factors, including the increased likelihood of colder water, ice and freezing rain, as well as fatigue due to the opening of the season at midnight.

To prevent further incidents and loss of life, I ask the following: How — and when — will the department implement the recommendation to include a comprehensive identification of hazards, as well as of independent safety expertise, in all of its fisheries resource management decisions?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and also for underlining the significance of these issues for the safety of our fishers and the industry. It’s something that, as a former member of the Fisheries and Oceans Committee, I’m very aware of.

I certainly do not have specific answers to your question. I do know that safety issues were at the heart of the report that the Senate submitted to the government some years ago under the chairmanship of Senator Manning. My understanding is that the department is engaged with those recommendations. I’ll certainly make inquiries on the more specific question that you asked.

Senator Francis: Thank you, Senator Gold. I look forward to a detailed response.

The deaths of Craig Sock and Seth Monahan could have been prevented. In fact, days before the Tyhawk capsized, Elsipogtog First Nation requested a delay in the opening of the season because there was still ice on the water, which was a hazard for their members. How many more harvesters will have to die before Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or DFO, respects the rights and knowledge of the Mi’kmaq, who have been fishing on these waters since time immemorial?

Senator Gold: The incident was a tragic and unfortunate one, and there are all too many such incidents. The rights of the Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous communities to hunt and fish for livelihood are well recognized in law and need to be implemented and recognized throughout our government, as does the contribution that Indigenous knowledge makes to ensuring that these practices are safe.

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