Fishing

‘Dumping Day’ tragedy: man drowns while setting lobster traps

Investigations have been launched by the RCMP, the Transportation and Safety Board, and the Department of Labour

The incident happened in Woods Harbour at 9:00 a.m. on Monday.
The incident happened near Woods Harbour at 9:00 a.m. on Monday.   Sarah Poko

A 53-year-old Cape Breton man is dead after he drowned Monday morning when he fell overboard the vessel Cock-a-wit Lady near Woods Harbour. Police said he was setting lobster traps for “Dumping Day” off the coast of southwestern Nova Scotia.

“Dumping Day” is the first day of lobster fishing season in the area.

Police reports say at 9:00 a.m., Barrington RCMP was notified that a man had fallen overboard the fishing vessel. The crew pulled him out of the water and called the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), which sent a plane to assist. Search and Rescue Technicians (SART) got the man onto the Coast Guard ship Clark’s Harbour. The man was then airlifted to Yarmouth Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The incident is being investigated by the RCMP, the Transportation and Safety Board (TSB), and the department of labour.

According to a TSB notice, investigators have been sent to Woods Harbour to gather information about this case. They are also investigating another man-overboard incident where two men fell off the fishing vessel Nomada Queen 1. Both men were rescued.

Maritime Search and Rescue Coordinator Scott Burgulin was on the scene when the incident happened. He said today’s opening involved 1,700 licenses. Burgulin also said weather conditions were favourable and the water temperature was about five degrees Celsius.

“The mariners involved in the fishery are very professional and they use an abundance of caution,” said Burgulin. “It is my understanding that [the men who fell overboard] were in the water for a very short period of time.”

RCMP Media Relations Officer Const. Mark Skinner said both incidents were separate. However, he said he could not release some details about the man who died, as it would compromise the integrity of the investigation. Skinner said the family of the fisherman who died has been notified of the incident and so far, the RCMP does not believe the death to be suspicious.

Kelly Regan, the minister of labour, sent her condolences to the family and friends of the dead fisherman. According to the labour department, there have been 25 workplace fatalities this year.

“This is such sad news,” said Regan in a press release on Monday. “I know I’m joined by many across the province in expressing my heartfelt sympathy to his loved ones.”