By Chris Hayes
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
A Cape Bretoner will be the face of a safety campaign encouraging Nova Scotia fishermen to wear life-saving personal flotation devices.
Leonard LeBlanc, who fishes out of Cheticamp, and Marilyn D’Entremont, a widow from Pubnico, Yarmouth County, whose husband Lewis died while fishing for herring, will be featured in the ads.
“I hear my mugshot is going to go all over the place,” said LeBlanc, who has been an outspoken champion of flotation devices and safety at sea generally.
“The message is quite clear, (personal flotation devices) save lives,” he said.
The ads will started running during National Drowning Prevention Week ( July 21-29) as part of an awareness campaign being rolled out by the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
LeBlanc and representatives of the three groups were on the wharf at Cheticamp on July 12 raising awareness among fishermen who were gearing up for a snow crab fishery that started that day. The fishermen got a demonstration on how flotation devices save lives when a volunteer wearing one jumped into the water.
“It just lifted him out of the water, which was kind of neat, and that I think sent the best message we could have done, to actually see one working,” said LeBlanc, who as president of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition represents about 146 fishermen from Margaree Harbour to Pleasant Bay.
Nova Scotia fishermen are 19 times more likely to be killed at work than working Nova Scotians in general, according to Workers’ Compensation Board statistics that were released in July.
The board said in a release the statistics, which it called “completely unacceptable,” were being released in response to a Transportation Safety Board report that was based on a three-year investigation into fishing safety in Canada.
Stewart Franck, the executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia, wants to see a change in the culture of the fishery, which seems to include ignoring the hazards of the industry.
“There are things we can do with respect to protecting our own health and safety on the job and that’s part of the cultural shift that has to occur,” he said.