Emergency radio beacons coming for small fishing vessels in southern Labrador

The Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company is outfitting 70 boats after accident concerns

May 23, 2022

Longliners in L’Anse au Loup waiting for the ice to clear so the crab season can begin. The boats that fish for the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company are set to be outfitted with emergency radio beacons, something fisherman Mallory Harrigan said will provide peace of mind. (Submitted by Mallory Harrigan)

Seventy fishing vessels are set to be outfitted with emergency position indicating radio beacons this season. 

The Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company is outfitting dozens of vessels between Cartwright and L’Anse au Clair that are under 40 feet and harvesting for them. 

The move comes less than a year after two fishermen died near Mary’s Harbour and shortly following a Transportation Safety Board report into the loss of the FV Sarah Anne in Placentia Bay. 

The TSB report found the Sarah Anne was not equipped with a vessel monitoring system. The director of marine investigation said the absence of life-saving equipment and distress alerting devices has contributed to 42 deaths from 2010 to 2020. 

“We’ve come to a time when we feel that somebody has to take the initiative,” Gilbert Linstead, general manager of the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company, told CBC News.

The devices transmit signals to a satellite, which alerts search and rescue services in case of an emergency at sea and allows them to pinpoint the beacon’s location. Linstead said the company’s board brought the idea forward after the fishermen were concerned about recent accidents. 

Beacon Testers WST
Small boats between Cartwright to L’Anse Au Clair who fish for the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company are being outfitted with emergency radio beacons. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

“The larger boats, they already have them on them required by Transport Canada,” Linstead said. “The smaller boats didn’t have the same requirements. But you know, it’s a good thing to have on them. So we’ve decided to be proactive on it.”

The beacons cost roughly $750 each plus tax, he said.

Linstead said while it will be a costly venture for the company — more than $50,000 — it will be worthwhile to have the smaller boats equipped. He said the company does have partners to help and hopes to begin distributing them within the next two weeks. 

Loss of Island Lady remains in people’s minds: GM 

Many people are getting EPIRBs for more than just professional reasons, he said. Two men died after the Island Lady went missing off the coast of Mary’s Harbour in September and people are still grieving, he said. 

“All of us [are] certainly one big family between Cartwright and L’Anse au Clair. And, you know, we work closely together and we all know each other. No doubt, that one hit us all hard. And we’re still feeling the effects of it,” Linstead said. 

Marc Russell and Joey Jenkins aboard the Island Lady. The pair was last heard from around 4 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2021. (Submitted by Dwight Russell )

Marc Russell and Joey Jenkins were aboard the Island Lady, a boat smaller than 40 ft, off Mary’s Harbour. They were last heard from around 4 p.m. AT on Sept. 17, 2021. Ten days later, the RCMP called off the search. 

“We hope this helps somebody in the future and maybe helps to ease the pain of what has already gone on,” Linstead said. 

Mallory Harrigan is out on her fifth fishing season on a smaller vessel. She said the loss of Russell and Jenkins hit the fishing community hard as they were close friends and family members to many. 

She said equipping EPIRBs is a great idea but the cost was a hindrance to getting one sooner because there’s insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs and equipment that are all also needed to operate a vessel. While she hasn’t heard when the vessel she works on may get one, she’s hopeful it will be before the crab season starts. 

“It gives us not only peace of mind in terms of our safety, it makes me feel valuable even though I work on a smaller boat,” Harrigan said. 

AIS Testing BT200
AIS Testing BT200
AIS Testing BT200
AIS Testing BT200
AIS Testing BT200
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WST BT200 screen
WST BT200 screen