Looking back: 2013 a year of tragedy in fishing industry

Greg Bennett
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2013 was a year of terrible loss within the fishing industry in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Hearts across the area felt the loss of five fishermen from the Miss Ally in February.

The Miss Ally and its crew of five young men ran into trouble late Sunday evening, Feb. 17 about 120 kilometres southeast of Liverpool returning from a halibut fishing trip. Caught in a huge storm, the last signal from the boat was from an emergency locator beacon.

Throughout, rescue crews were hampered by the weather. Waves seldom fell lower than six metres and winds blew at gale force or stronger through most of the search. At times visibility was near zero.

People in the community of Woods Harbour, where some of the missing fishermen were from, and from other communities across Shelburne County, came together during the search to pray for the safe return of the fishermen. Prayer vigils and moments of silence were joined by more private gatherings of family members that offered support.

The capsized hull of the boat was located but despite days of searching none of men were found.

Frustration with the recovery efforts led to a volunteer flotilla of fishermen and divers heading out into the Atlantic. Those divers would be the first to inspect the overturned hull in the search for answers, but would find nothing.

Weeks later memorial services were held for Joel Hopkins, Steven Cole Nickerson, Katlin Nickerson, Billy Hatfield and Tyson Townsend.

Those services saw hundreds of people pay their final respects to the lost fishermen.

The month prior to the Miss Ally tragedy, the community of Wedgeport in Yarmouth County had mourned the loss of a young fisherman when 20-year-old Mike Doucette fell overboard while lobster fishing on the vessel Row Row. Around an hour had passed onboard the boat on Jan. 12 before the crew noticed that Doucette was missing. They had presumed he was on the vessel, likely in his bunk.

Since no one saw when or where the fisherman went overboard, it complicated the search from the outset. Despite an intensive search from the air and on the water that went on for nearly 14 hours in ideal search conditions, the lost fisherman was not found.

In July, the area lost another local fisherman is an accident, which claimed the life of  Paul Vernon "Brex" Malone, from Lower East Pubnico. Malone died on July 23, after falling from the crow's nest, a structure with a fixed ladder, or spar, in the center of the vessel used to spot swordfish. The 55-year-old fisherman was a crewman on the swordfishing boat "Savana & Jax.”

The sadness of all of these fishing tragedies were not just felt by family and friends, nor just in the communities where these fishermen were from, but indeed throughout the entire fishing industry.


Geographic location: Liverpool, Woods Harbour, Shelburne County Atlantic

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Recent comments

  • Kelly
    December 31, 2013 - 04:47

    Wasn't there more lost at sea in 2013? I thought I heard of more that the 5 boys and Brex? Maybe the years are going by so fast I'm combining years now. Idk. Editor's note : Yes there was at least one other death, a fisherman also fell overboard and was lost in Wedgeport. We should have clarified in the article that we were referring to incidents involving Shelburne County fishermen and boats.