OHS Canada Magazine

Nova Scotia lobster season opens with a reminder: ‘One tragedy is too many’ in dangerous industry

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November 28, 2022
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety fishing Lobster nova scotia Ocean Sea

(skyf/Adobe Stock)

It is “Dumping Day” in Southwestern Nova Scotia as lobster fishers kick off the season.

The season starts today in lobster fishing areas 33 and 34, and the province is reminding workers to be safe as they head out to sea.

Boats are often loaded with traps and gear, and crews must be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions, it said

“Boarding boats in the cold and dark, at the mercy of the weather and the sea, makes fishing dangerous work. Safety is a crucial priority,” said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Craig. “One tragedy is one too many, so we urge fishing captains and crews to make sure they follow their safety training and take every precaution so they are able to come home safely to their loved ones.”

Tips for fishing crews

Fishing crews preparing to head out each morning should:

  • monitor the weather
  • assess their boats
  • examine their safety gear and check on others on board
  • stay on the lookout for potential working hazards
  • wear personal flotation devices
  • stay prepared for emergencies.

Stuart MacLean, CEO of WCB Nova Scotia, said the agency has been committed to making safety a priority in the fishing industry for many years.

That’s why we work closely with our partners to do all we can to make sure captain and crew come home to their families,” said MacLean. “We have seen significant improvements in safety, but there are still tragedies that remind us we need to do more. As crews set out, we encourage them to do everything they can to make it back to the wharf safely each day.

Matthew Duffy, executive director of Fish Safe NS, said commercial fishing comes with numerous inherent risks.

However, our industry has made significant progress over the last decade toward a safer fishery,” he said. “Captains are reminded to always ensure you and your crew wear a personal floatation device (PFD). Prior to Dumping Day and during the season, inspect all onboard safety equipment, and familiarize your crew with your EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), immersion suits and fire extinguishers. I also encourage captains to regularly monitor weather and sea conditions prior to departure and, if possible, during your trip. The entire team at Fish Safe NS wishes all the captains and crews a very safe season.

Fishery facts

  • occupational health and safety laws require fishing crews to wear a life jacket or other personal flotation device
  • since 2016, there have been 1,400 fishing-related initiatives including man overboard drills, Safety Dock talks and Are You Ready? wharf visits
  • each year, Labour, Skills and Immigration, WCB Nova Scotia, Fish Safe NS and the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council partner to deliver a fishing safety awareness campaign to remind captains, crew and families of the importance of wearing a PFD while on or near the water
  • Nova Scotia’s seafood industry is the province’s largest exporter and Canada’s top seafood exporter, with $2.5 billion in exports in 2021


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