The grounding of a fishing boat off Canso earlier this month, which resulted in the death of the ship’s captain, has raised important questions.
On February 6, just a few minutes after leaving Canso, the Fishermen’s Provider II struck the “Frying Pan Shoal” at approximately 8 p.m. Three men were rescued that evening from the boat by other fishermen, while the fourth, captain Roger Stoddard, remained onboard.
The rescue effort continued that evening and into the following day by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC). On February 8, the matter was returned to the RCMP’s jurisdiction as a missing persons investigation. This was after the JRCC exhausted efforts to recover the captain. That same day, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada deployed a team of investigators to Canso.
On February 9, the 64-year-old captain was found deceased in his boat. The TSB confirmed they are investigating how the boat ran aground and why the captain stayed with the grounded vessel. To do this, investigators interviewed the three survivors of the Fiserhman’s Provider II and remained in Canso to continue their probe.
Guysborough District RCMP will continue to work with partner agencies, and as part of the investigation, they were reviewing the findings of Stoddard’s autopsy.
Ginny Boudreau, the manager of the Guysborough Inshore Fishermen’s Association said although Stoddard was not a member of her group, he was known in the area and members of the association observed a moment of silence for the captain.
One point that Boudreau made, which requires more follow-up from all fishing industry stakeholders is the need for more information on the rescue and recovery process. She noted that local fishermen can benefit from being more aware and more familiar with the process.
Boudreau was responding to sharp criticism pointed at rescuers from local fishermen and the owner of the Fishermen’s Provider II, who took issue with the assertion of the JRCC that they exhausted all efforts to retrieve the captain.
These critics are taking issue with the perceived lack of action in retrieving the captain during the two days between the grounding and when his body was located. On February 7 and 8, there were very high winds and rough seas in the Strait of Canso which hampered the operation, but those with questions claim rescuers could have done more.
Whether that is the case is debatable, but it is odd that those who actually saved the three crewmen and recovered the captain’s body were all fishermen using their own boats.
The weather during those days was not favourable, but it wasn’t enough to deter fishermen from taking it upon themselves to save others and recover the body.
Why that was too much for rescuers is a question worth asking and one that requires an answer.