Fishing tragedy affects all fishing communities and families

Photo by Grant McDaniel Fisherman returned to Murphy’s Pond early on the morning of May 12 out of respect for the two lives lost when the Ocean Star II capsized.

The recent passing of two lobster fishermen in waters just off Port Hood was a stark reminder of the inherent dangers in making a living from the sea.

On May 12, at around 6 a.m., the Ocean Star II capsized while fishing close to the shore. Captain Hugh Watts and Glen MacDonald died in the incident. The only survivor was Elijah Watts, Hugh’s son.

Cpt. Marc Greatti, public affairs officer with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, confirmed they received the call Saturday morning that the lobster fishing vessel capsized in Sutherland’s Cove with three occupants onboard.

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On May 13, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada deployed a team of investigators to Colindale. The TSB said it will gather information and assess the incident.

The Department of Labour and Advanced Education (DLAE) confirmed on May 14 it was in the preliminary stages of its investigation. The DLAE will be working with the TSB on the probe.

As news of the tragedy made its way through the area on May 12, local fisherman returned to Murphy’s Pond out of respect for the two lives lost.

One long-time worker at the Ceilidh Fisherman’s Co-op declared to The Reporter hours after the incident “We lost two fishermen.”

That sentiment of collective loss was widely expressed throughout the region and the province following news of the fatalities.

Although the Port Hood area more acutely feels this loss, it is not alone in its grief. There are other people out there who understand precisely what they are going through, there are other communities which have suffered like this, and there is a culture surrounding the fishery which marshals support and empathy, especially during tragedy.

This culture kicked into high gear on May 12, with auxiliary vessels motoring to the scene of the incident on that fateful morning, with fellow fishermen returning to port out of respect, with the entire community united in mourning, and with expressions of grief pouring in from around the region and province.

Although insufficient to erase the pain and loss, it hopefully provides some comfort to loved ones that they have so much support from not just their community.

This is, after all, a region that lies along the ocean, and which has been greatly influenced by this geographic reality. The Strait area has seen both sides of the sea; the abundant natural bounty and the devastation it can bring. This is a reality the people of this region have accepted. They know well that tragedy is a very real possibility hovering around every corner.

That is why communities move into action when something like this happens, and why people are so quick to offer comfort and assistance.

This was a genuine tragedy for all involved, but some solace can be found in the demonstrable fact that the Watts and MacDonald families are not alone and never will be.