Investigations continue after Courtenay man dies in fish farm accident

Mike Youds, January 16, 2020

A Cermaq fish farm in Clayoquot Sound, where the company is the largest aquaculture operator. (Cermaq Canada photo)

Tofino, BC — 

Coroner and WorkSafe BC investigations continue into a fish farm accident in Clayoquot Sound that took the life of a Comox Valley man.

Two other workers were injured in the Dec. 22 boating incident, which occurred in late afternoon at a Cermaq site in the Tofino area.

The company said it immediately reported the accident to the Canadian Coast Guard. The injured workers were taken to hospital in Tofino in stable condition. A 29-year-old man from Courtenay died in the accident.

More than 50 people offered their condolences on the company’s Facebook page after a notice was posted on the tragedy.

“We are extending our heartfelt condolences and support to the family and friends of our employee,” the company stated. “We are providing resources and support for our employees and families as they work through this tragic and difficult time.”

A Cermaq spokeswoman said on Monday, Jan. 13 that the company continues to support the employees and families in the aftermath of the accident while investigations continue.

The December incident was the second fatality at an Island fish farm in 2019. Aidan Webber, a Nanaimo teenager, was killed last March at a Mowi Canada West’s Robertson Island farm near Port Hardy.  Webber was an accomplished international BMX athlete.

In October 2018, a Cermaq employee fell from a barge under tow east of Flores Island. The man, who was wearing a PFD, was rescued about 40 minutes later by a passing speedboat from Ahousaht. He was unharmed, fortunate to be spotted in the water before darkness fell.

Working on the water, particularly at sea and in adverse weather conditions, has always been a hazardous occupation. In an analysis of Canadian workplace fatalities, the Globe and Mail reported in 2017 that the fishing sector as a whole is the most dangerous industry in the country. According to WorkSafe statistics, the aquaculture sector represents about 10 per cent of fishing industry accident claims in B.C. Aquaculture and marine harvest labourers ranked sixth among 10 occupations across Canada with the highest average fatality rates due to traumatic injury.

A WorkSafeBC spokeswoman indicated their investigation of the December accident continues. Industry accident investigations are intended to identify the cause of an incident, including any contributing factors, for the purpose of prevention. B.C. Coroners Service also confirmed it was conducting a fact-finding investigation into the death.