Fishing safety action plan to chart a safer course

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Fishermen, their families, and communities are invited to help form the Safe at Sea Alliance and develop a Fishing Safety Action Plan to reduce fatalities and improve fishing safety.

About 30 members of the fishing industry were on hand Thursday, March 6, in Halifax, to talk about what needs to be done to improve fishing safety in Nova Scotia.

"We've certainly come a long way in the industry and there has been a shift in the safety culture over the past couple of years," said Leonard LeBlanc, of Cheticamp and a member of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen's Coalition. "But more needs to be done. We need to take things a step further, be more proactive as an industry, and that's what this new approach is all about."

The fishing industry contributes more than $1 billion to the Nova Scotia economy annually. It is also one of the most dangerous industries. In 2013, there were eight fishing fatalities in Nova Scotia. Just this week a fisherman died in a fishing accident off the coast of Port Mouton.

"Fishing is a proud, vibrant industry at the very core of our heritage, but it's also one of the most dangerous jobs in the province," said Kelly Regan, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education in a media release. "This industry has been touched too deeply by tragedy, and it doesn't have to be this way. Together, we can help improve safety across the industry."

Fishing safety is a key part of the province's Workplace Safety Strategy, and was also recently identified as a key pillar of the province's new Commercial Fishing Strategy.

"The number of fatalities and injuries in the fishing industry is unacceptable and must be addressed," said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell. "The Fishing Safety Action Plan will be a key contribution to the safety and training part of the Commercial Fisheries Strategy. We are pleased to be part of this important initiative."

"Too many people are dying at work in Nova Scotia's fishing sector and we need to change that," says Stuart MacLean, CEO, Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia. "But in order for there to be real change, it has to be led by the fishing industry. That's why we're reaching out to fishermen, their families, and communities. We're asking them to help drive this change."

Once the Fishing Safety Action Plan is developed provincial and federal government and industry association partners will join the Safe at Sea Alliance to help move the plan forward and implement recommendations.

To learn more about the province's Workplace Safety Strategy, visit http://novascotia.ca/lae/documents/WorkplaceSafetyStrategy.pdf .

To learn more about the Safe at Sea Alliance and the Fishing Safety Action Plan, go to www.safeatseans.ca .

Organizations: Sea Alliance, Commercial Fisheries Strategy, Compensation Board of Nova Scotia

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Halifax, Cheticamp Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen Port Mouton

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