Session 1A – Weather and Fishing Safety

Monday, June 11, 9:00am–10:30am, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1049

Fishing is globally recognized as a highly dangerous occupation. Many studies allude to the role of weather as an important hazard in fishing safety. However, few studies have systematically examined the relationship between weather, weather forecasting and fishing safety and ways to mitigate risk. This session will present findings from two multidisciplinary initiatives focused on studying the relationship between weather and fishing safety including one that is seeking to also develop strategies to reduce weather-related risk.

1A.1  Studying weather and fishing safety using mixed methodsJames Shewmake, Barbara Neis and Joel Finnis, Memorial University; Ronald Pelot, Dalhousie University (Presentation slides).

This presentation outlines a mixed methods research design developed to address this gap in the literature. This research is being done in collaboration with, and with partial support from, the Newfoundland and Labrador Fish Harvesting Safety Association. One method uses gridded vessel traffic data and an array of available and modelled weather data to explore the potential for developing a climatology of weather and traffic based on the spatial and temporal variability of weather hazards, seasonality of fishing effort, and how the two interact. We are looking for “thresholds of behaviour”, i.e. indicators of relationships between fishing vessel traffic activity and weather conditions relative to current forecast warning criteria in Canada. The second part of the study uses qualitative techniques (interviews, participatory mapping and direct observation) with skippers in the small-scale fleet to deepen our understanding of how they navigate weather-related risks. The third part uses interviews with forecast producers and an additional set of interviews with users to contrast current practices of forecast production, communication, and application in a hazard-rich cold-ocean environment with harvester needs.

1A.2  A climatology of marine weather hazards and fishing trafficJames Shewmake and Joel Finnis, Memorial University; Ronald Pelot, Dalhousie University (Presentation slides – 1A.2_AND_1A.3 combined).

Recent research on extreme marine weather events and vessel traffic suggests that, for the most part, fishing activity decreases relative to the worst of weather conditions. This research refines these general findings by mapping weather conditions based on the forecast warning system onto forecast and fishing activity zones and seasons in order to evaluate 1) how suitable the current weather watch and warning thresholds are at deterring fish harvesters from fishing in hazardous weather condition; and 2) how this might vary spatially across the study area, both near and away from shore, and temporally across the fishing season.

1A.3  Navigating riskJames Shewmake and Barbara Neis, Memorial University (Presentation slides – 1A.2_AND_1A.3 combined).

We will present findings from interviews with fish harvesters indicating that fishing activity is highly sensitive to particular weather hazards, notably wind and sea state, with thresholds varying by vessel size and frequency of events varying by season. We document the expertise held by fish harvesters and the challenges they navigate to practice their trade including those related to forecasting.

1A.4  Marine forecast production and application in Atlantic CanadaJoel Finnis, Barbara Neis, and Memorial University (Presentation slides).

We will look at ways practitioners and end-users think about marine forecasting, balance observations and predictions, and adjust behavior in response to critical events. Marine forecasts remain a key tool for mitigating the impact of weather hazards, while informing risk-based decision-making. It is not clear that marine forecast production and use are always evolving together, particularly in sectors with limited direct contact with meteorological service providers. The presentation draws on findings from roundtable discussions and a dozen semi-structured interviews with forecast producers and fish harvesters. We look at ways practitioners and end-users think about marine forecasting, balance observations and predictions, and adjust behavior in response to critical events.

James Shewmake will round out this part of the session by talking about the benefits of this mixed methods approach and discussing strategies and tools developed to mobilize lessons learned from this research among key stakeholder groups including particularly fish harvesters.

1A.5 Impact-based indices: Dangerous seas, initial work to develop a Dangerous Sea IndexDevon Telford, Environment and Climate Change Canada (Presentation slides).

This presentation describe a graphical index combining atmospheric and oceanic factors to identify areas that are favorable, uncomfortable and dangerous dependent on the vessel class and gear type/vertical center of gravity. Fishing vessels will be subdivided by class (A, B, C and D) which correspond to their maximum lengths and also subdivided by vessel activity, steaming vs fishing. The author will then survey contributing factors that create an unsafe and dangerous environment for Mariners for each class and activity, such as: breaking wave height, wave steepness with respect to vessel length, angle of maximum heel with respect to wave height and period, and this may be expanded to include wind speed, vessel icing, type and presence of sea ice and visibility restrictions. This project is part of the ECCC-NOAA Bilateral Marine Services Collaborations 2016-18 Work Plan.


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