Transport Canada says there is a stable compliance rate within the fishing industry with the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations that came into force on July 13, 2017.
“Since the regulations came into effect, there has been 2,270 inspections of small fishing vessels less than 24.4 metres or 150 gross tonnage (across Canada). A stable compliance rate has been noted, so no penalties have been issued for non-compliance with any of the new requirements of the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations,” said Ian Campbell, Manager, National Marine Safety Programs with Transport Canada, in an interview.
“Generally, the fishing industry is doing very well in terms of compliance,” said Campbell, noting there have been “many positive developments between industry safety awareness groups and ourselves. During the implementation period for the new regulations, we held many engagement sessions across the county to further explain requirements of the regulations and to address any concerns and questions from fishing vessel owners and operators,” said Campbell, and are “continuing to reach out to local fishing communities and fishing vessels owners to help them meet the regulations.”
The Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia (FSANS) is one of the organizations that has been working with Transport Canada to help fishermen with the new rules, holding town hall meetings and creating wheelhouse safety log books, safety equipment charts and checklists as a quick reference guide based on vessel size.
Matthew Duffy, safety advisor for the FSANS, said he thinks the overall response from industry to the new regulations “has been good. Usually at all our town hall meetings, the room is full. The industry is certainly making a strong effort to get their facts straight and make sure they’re in compliance with stuff, so that’s a positive,” he said.
Generally, the questions fishermen are asking most are related to portable life saving equipment such as life jackets and life rafts, said Campbell. Both must be Transport Canada approved, adding life rafts must be serviced in accordance with the regulations and life jackets in accordance with manufacturers requirements.
Depending on the length of the vessel and area of operation, the safety equipment required aboard the vessel can vary accordingly under the regulations, said Campbell.
Life jackets, distress flares, water immersion suits, life rafts and written safety procedures onboard are among the requirements. Campbell said Transport Canada is “taking a graduated approach to enforcement, acknowledging the ongoing efforts by industry to raise awareness of new safety requirements and suppliers’ ability to meet that demand.”
When there is non-compliance, Campbell said marine safety inspectors take into consideration the efforts the owner has made to achieve compliance and actively engage with vessel owners to help them understand and meet the new requirements.
“Fishing vessels 15 gross tonnes or less are not required to be inspected regularly or carry a certificate of inspection but might be subject to risk-based monitoring inspections,” said Campbell. “Vessels over 15 tonnes must be inspected every four years and have a certificate as well.”
Vessels under 15 gross tonnage can voluntarily sign up for the orange decal small fishing vessel compliance program, rolled out in May 2018. Campbell said “been good uptake” to the program. “So far it’s being very positively received,” he said.
“The objective of the regulations is to reduce fatalities, injuries and loss or damage to vessels in the commercial fishing industry while not placing an unnecessary burden or barriers or undue hardship on fishing communities that depend on fishing,” said Campbell.