Monday, July 21, 2014

BOAT SAFETY IS CRITICAL THIS TIME OF YEAR

For the second year in a row, the start of the Recreational Cod Fishery was marred with the news that a man drowned. Tragic irony:  it is national drowning prevention week in Canada,

The latest  victim drowned off Bell Island when a boat carrying three people capsized.

It is a bit early to comment on water safety - the condition on the boat and the use of life jackets - but Capt. Kimberly Lemaire indicated that life-jackets were among the items recovered from the water.

With the demise of the fishery, many people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador have sold or allowed their sturdy dories and boats fall into disuse. The result is less maintenance. A fleet of less than safe water craft have emerged. Despite a catch limit ties to three individuals, people pile into these boats in great numbers.  The result is instability.

As well, many of the recreational fishers do not understand the challenges of fishing on the Atlantic. Some go out without oars, grappling hooks, compasses or a GPS. They may not understand the tides, local currents, hidden rocks or winds.  

It is a scary situation. 

Despite the refrains of play it safe, some just do not get it. Some people are so eager to drop their lines that they drop their common sense as well.

Last year on the first day of the fisherry a a 51-year-old man drowned near Bonavista. He wasn’t wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).

The maddening part of these senseless deaths is that water safety is preached, promoted and pushed. It must be terribly frustrating for organizations like the RCMP, Transport Canada and The Red Cross to learn that there efforts are not getting through to everyone.

Let's face it none of expects to get into a car accident when we leave home for a run to the grocery store. We slip on our seat belts just in case to limit the potential injury that an accident can happen. No one expects to fall out of a fishing boat but it happens, particularly when boasts are loaded with people standing on the sides trying to catch a cod. That instability great enhances the potential for a spill or the boat capsizing. Wearing a PDF ensures your survival.

The food fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador continues  until Aug. 10. It resumes in the fall from Sept. 20-28.

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