The men — one from Southern Harbour, one from Arnold’s Cove and one from Leading Tickles — had been fishing crab from a 23-foot open boat in the area of Davis Cove, on the west side of Placentia Bay, on June 16.
When they didn't return home that evening, family members alerted the coast guard. A helicopter and a Hercules fixed-wing aircraft searched the area, aided by local boats. The bodies of the three men were recovered the following day.
In its report on the incident, the TSB noted contributing factors that led to tragedy.
They note the master of the vessel had not fished any of his crab quota for the year, and there were only weeks remaining in the fishing season.
“There was increased pressure on the master to fish,” the report noted.
The master had chosen to use the smaller, open boat to fish the quota because his primary crab fishing vessel was under repair.
“He was not permitted to use another vessel he owned, the Samantha D. Patrick, because that vessel was licensed by his spouse and could only be used to fish her quota and 150 (crab) traps,” the report continued.
“Given the time constraints, the master modified the secondary vessel for fishing. These modifications were not assessed or tested for stability.”
The TSB determined that the increased load on the small vessel, including the weight of the crew members, additional equipment and crab, would have made the boat more challenging to operate in the weather and sea conditions present on the day of the incident.
The TSB, in its “findings as to risk” noted that fishermen are put at risk when fisheries resource management measures do not consider safety at all levels, from policy through to practice.
In relation to the Placentia Bay incident, the TSB report noted, “Although options were available to the owner/master to fish safely by obtaining an exemption from the DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) licencing policy, DFO does not advertise their policy exemption request procedure and the owner/master did not use that option.”
The TSB report went on to say that if information about fisheries licencing policy, such as policy exemption requests and approvals, is not disseminated proactively to fishermen, they may not seek approval to use the safest means available to them to go fishing, increasing the risk to safe fishing operations.
The full 26-page report of the TSB is available here:
*** Headline corrected Aug. 5 ***