Cheticamp, N.S. — The Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board (GNSFPB) is spending $1.3 million dollars to buy safety equipment for 600 fishers.

The organization represents the interests of inshore fishermen in an area that extends from the New Brunswick border to the tip of Cape Breton in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. This is the second time in as many years that GNSFPB has made a major safety investment. Last year it bought PFDs for every member in the Gulf of Nova Scotia, an investment worth $230,000.

“We hope we never have to use this new equipment,” says Leonard LeBlanc, GNSFPB’s managing director. “But if it saves just one life, then it was money very well spent.”

LeBlanc also serves as vice president of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia.

The GNSFPB is buying 1,200 immersion suits, 600 emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and 100 additional PFDs for over 600 fishers. It will also buy an automatic electronic defibrillator (AED) for each wharf in the Gulf of Nova Scotia. The equipment purchase is aligned with new safety requirements for commercial fishing vessels introduced by Transport Canada. The new rules will come into force this summer. The equipment will be provided to GNSFPB’s harvesters at no cost.

“The Fisheries Safety Association of N.S. applauds the Gulf N.S. Fleet Planning Board for again stepping up to the plate to protect the health and safety of fishers and the public,” says Stewart Franck, executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia. “Providing this equipment will help ensure fishers in the Gulf fleet have the required life-saving equipment on board, and will encourage them to make sure they know how to use and maintain it.”

Immersion suits provide protection from cold water and would be put on if emergency ship abandonment were necessary. EPIRBs are used to alert search and rescue of a boat’s location, speeding up rescue and recovery. Money to buy the equipment comes from proceeds generated by the federal shrimp quota. The equipment will be acquired and delivered through local safety supply partners.

“The GNSFPB believes in fishing communities, supports fishing families, and wants to help make sure that all harvesters return home safely after every trip,” LeBlanc says. “That’s what this investment is all about.”