One year 'sufficient time' for fishermen to grasp new rules, Transport Canada says

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Transport Canada says it is giving fishermen "sufficient time" to prepare for new safety regulations coming into force this summer.

The Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations were announced on July 13, 2016, and come into effect July 13, 2017.

"This one-year period was to allow owners of fishing vessels sufficient time to familiarize themselves and get up-to-date with the new requirements," Transport Canada said in an email to CBC P.E.I.

The response came after representatives from 15 fishing organizations representing more than 20,000 fish harvesters walked out of a meeting in Halifax on Thursday with Transport Canada.

Transport Canada said the objectives of the new regulations are to reduce fatalities, injuries and loss or damage to vessels in the commercial fishing industry.

Fishermen calling for more clarity

The fishermen said they "support the intent" of the changes, but are frustrated with how the new regulations are being rolled out.

They said they want more clarity on standard operating procedures fishermen are expected to take when there's an emergency, and more time to acquire the safety equipment they say can cost thousands of dollars.

But Transport Canada said "extensive consultation" has taken place with stakeholders, including fishing vessel owners, provincial safety groups and representatives of fishing safety associations from coast to coast to coast.

'Alternate arrangements'

"Since the announcement in July 2016, Transport Canada has been providing small fishing vessel owners with information and tools to help them meet the regulatory requirements," it said in its email, noting information has been made available on its website.

Transport Canada also said the regulations are "risk-based, thereby providing the industry with a choice of alternate arrangements to meet the proposed requirements in the manner that is most cost effective/suitable to the nature of their vessels and operations."

15 gross tonnage

Under the new regulations, fishing vessels of more than 15 gross tonnage will be subject to Transport Canada inspection.

For fishing vessels less than 15 gross tonnage, the Small Vessel Compliance Program will be made available on a voluntary basis.

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