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Investigation report: Fatal sinking of unregistered fishing vessel Island Lady in September 2021

Christian Fernsby |
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (M21A0315) into the fatal sinking of the fishing vessel known as Island Lady that occurred in the Labrador Sea, NL, in September 2021.

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Neither the crew nor vessel were found.

The TSB’s investigation into this occurrence could not determine with certainty the cause of the disappearance of the Island Lady. It is likely that the vessel sank and that both crew members entered the water unexpectedly.

The vessel or crew did not carry any operable distress alerting devices and there was no distress call received from the vessel. This resulted in a delay in search and rescue efforts being initiated and a large search area, greatly reducing the crew’s chance of survival.

In an emergency, getting assistance quickly is crucial to survival. In a seven-year period between 2015 and 2021, the TSB has noted 15 similar occurrences where 34 fish harvesters have lost their lives.

In all of these occurrences distress alerting devices such as an emergency position-indicating radio beacon or a personal locator beacon were not used. When combined with life-saving appliances, a distress alerting device can be an effective means of increasing the chances of surviving an emergency.

The investigation also revealed that while the Island Lady was registered with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) as a requirement of the licence to harvest marine resources, it was not registered with Transport Canada.

The TSB’s recent investigation into the sinking of the fishing vessel Sarah Anne (M20A0160) identified that a large number of fishing vessels are operating in a similar manner. As a result, the TSB issued a recommendation (M22-01) that DFO require all commercial fishing vessels to have a current and accurate Transport Canada registration.

The Board noted that accurate vessel registration gives Transport Canada an opportunity to provide safety oversight and make available up to date information to search and rescue authorities.

The issue of Commercial fishing safety has been on the TSB’s Watchlist since 2010. Despite various initiatives under way to enhance the safety culture within the commercial fishing industry, the same deficiencies on board fishing vessels continue to be found.

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