Small Fishing Vessels

Small Fishing Vessels

Fishing Vessel

Small Fishing Vessels are vessels that are used in commercial fishing and are from 0 to 150 gross tonnage, not more than 24.4 metres in length overall. Vessels, other than sailing ships, that take on loads at sea from vessels engaged in catching or transporting living resources of the sea including fish and marine vegetation are also commercial fishing vessels.

Reduce the risk

Commercial fishing can be a hazardous occupation. The risk can be reduced when a qualified, well trained crew operates a well designed, equipped and maintained vessel in accordance with established rules and procedures.

Regulations are the  minimum level of safety

Transport Canada regulations are developed in consultation with the fishing industry to provide a minimum level of safety for all these aspects – crew, vessel and operations. The Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations set out the requirements for building and equipping a small fishing vessel while the Marine Personnel Regulations contain requirements for crew size, certification and training. Other regulations, including the Collision Regulations and the Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and for Dangerous Chemicals also apply.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, vessel owners are responsible for understanding the regulatory requirements that apply to their operation and making sure that the operation is in compliance at all times. Owners are also responsible for developing procedures for the safe operation of the vessel and for dealing with emergencies as well as making sure that crew members receive safety training.

Remember that regulations establish a minimum level of safety. You can increase the level of safety on your vessel with equipment, such as personal flotation devices and EPIRBs. Consider the risks and protect yourself accordingly.


Safety training pays off

Transportation Safety Board investigations have found that in an emergency, crew safety largely depends on the capability and reliability of survival equipment, as well as the crew’s familiarity with the equipment and their skill in using it. Crews who are familiar with their vessel’s survival gear are better able to respond to an emergency.

The Board found that the regular practice of survival drills was a “major factor in the crew’s survival.”

Transportation Safety Board Investigation Report M98N006 (Atlantic Prize).

Fishing vessel masters are responsible, under the Marine Personnel Regulations (Section 206), for ensuring that each member of the complement becomes familiar with the following before taking part in a voyage,

(i) the shipboard equipment that are specific to the vessel,

(ii) the operational instructions that are specific to the vessel, and

(iii) their assigned duties; and can effectively perform their assigned duties when performing duties vital to safety or the prevention or mitigation of pollution.

The master is also responsible for keeping a training record of that includes the following information:

(i) the name of each person trained,

(ii) the equipment they were trained on,

(iii) what the training was about, and

(iv) the days on which they were trained.

The Small Fishing Vessel Safety Manual, available on line or from your local Transport Canada Centre, contains basic safety information that all crewmembers should know and follow.


Addressing known safety risks

Four out of five deaths on fishing vessels are stability related (capsizing, foundering, sinking) or are due to persons falling overboard. To reduce your chances of dying for the same reasons:

  • Wear a flotation device when on deck
  • Keep a record of vessel modifications
  • Assess the impact on stability of vessel modifications before you go ahead with them

The following Ship Safety Bulletins have additional guidance on these topics.

02/2011 Wearing and Using Flotation Devices: Small Non-pleasure Craft & Commercial Fishing Vessels

04/2006 Safety of Small Fishing Vessels: Information to Owners/Masters about Stability Booklets

01/2008 Fishing Vessel Safety Record of Modifications

New Regulations are underway 

Consultations to replace the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations with updated requirements have taken place. The consultation drafts of. Phase 1 of the proposed Fishing Vessel  Safety Regulations are available for comment. Please note that the draft is a living document and may be subject to revision based on changes in the regulatory project.

Phase 1 of the proposed Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations 

Small Fishing Vessels Links

Industry and safety-related links ;

Vessel Stability Guidance

A Guide to Fishing Vessel Stability - Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers

A Best Practices Guide to Fishing Vessel Stability  – a United States Coast Guard publication

“Safety practices related to small fishing vessel stability”  FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 517

Professionalization and Training boards

Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH)

Newfoundland and Labrador Fish Harvesting Safety Association

(link to be provided in future)

Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia

Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board – Newfoundland & Labrador (PFHCB)

FishSafe BC

Bureau d’accréditation des pêcheurs et des aides-pêcheurs du Québec (BAPAP), E-mail

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