A man looks out onto the Bay of Fundy at waters that appear to have taken the lives of six Canadian fishers. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

There’s heartache in Nova Scotia as hopes fade for fishers lost at sea

There is sadness and heartache Down East today.

Atlantic Canada has lost another fishing boat and–barring a miracle–the six-person crew that manned it.

As night fell Wednesday, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax announced it was suspending its air and sea search for the missing fishermen aboard the Chief William Saulis–last heard from near dawn on Tuesday when it sent up an emergency beacon in high seas and gusting winds.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the families, friends, and community of these men,” the JRCC said on Twitter.

The company where the fishers worked, Yarmouth Sea Products, confirmed their names: Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes, Michael Drake and Geno Francis, and Captain Charles Roberts.

The six men known to have been on board the Chief William Saulis. Top row, from left: Captain Charles Roberts, Aaron Cogswell, Dan Forbes. Bottom row, from left: Eugene Francis, Michael Drake and Leonard Gabriel. (Facebook/CBC)

The JRCC said the crew on the 15-metre-56-tonne scallop dragger faced waves two to three metres high and winds gusting from 40 to 50 km/h when it sent up the signal in the Bay of Fundy near Delaps Cove, Nova Scotia.

The emergency beacon prompted an all-out search that covered 260 nautical miles by sea and air. 

A Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules aircraft and a CP-140 Aurora Maritime Patrol Aircraft, as well as three coast guard vessels, people on shore and local fishing boats scoured the area. 

“We’re just searching the waters here, hoping to see something,” a local lobster fisher, Colin Sproul, told The Canadian Press’s Michael MacDonald.

“When any fishermen might need help, we always turn out,” Sproul said.

Searchers, who were hindered by difficult weather, found only fragments of the boat near the site.  

A crewman was found dead Tuesday night.

Members of a ground search and rescue team walk along the shore of the Bay of Fundy in Hillsburn, N.S. on Wednesday as they continued searching for missing crew of the scallop dragger Chief William Saulis that sank in the Bay of Fundy Tuesday morning. As night fell on Wedneday, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax–after 36 hours–called off its air and sea search. The RCMP are continuing a ground search today. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Earlier in the day, two empty life-rafts from the boat washed ashore near Hillsburn, a town of some 250 residents.

Finally–after 36 hours–the JRCC said it was calling off its air and sea search and was turning efforts over to the RCMP as a missing persons case.

In a statement Wednesday night, the RCMP said its ground search would be limited to daylight hours because of hazardous conditions at night and would cover a 55-kilometre stretch of coast between Delaps Cove and Margaretsville in Annapolis County.

The RCMP said searchers will be looking for “life-jackets, survival kits, survival suits, emergency beacons and human remains.”

Jacob Jacquard, who worked on the Chief William Saulis last year, told CP’s MacDonald the boat had been fishing off Alma, N.B., at the head of the bay and the crew was returning to shore with a full load of scallops when disaster struck.

The Chief William Saulis scallop fishing vessel is seen in November 2020. (Katherine Bickford, cbc.ca)

Harold Jarvis, a fellow Yarmouth fisherman, said he, too, had previously fished with the same men.

“As far as I know, they were just on their way home from a trip,” Jarvis told MacDonald. 

“They just never made it to port.”

A news release from Yarmouth Sea Products on Wednesday said “all required maintenance and inspection of safety equipment was current and up to date,” according to a report filed by the CBC’s Emma Davie.

Many of the crew members, Davie reported, are from the Yarmouth area.

“Fishing is not a job here, it’s a way of life,” Davie quotes the town’s mayor, Pam Mood, telling CBC’s Maritime Noon on Wednesday.

We line the shores just praying as the vessels go out with our friends, our family members on board.

“This is absolutely the worst news that you could ever get.


With files from CBC News (Emma Davie), The Canadian Press (Michael MacDonald)


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