On Wednesday, Cowichan Bay Harbour manager Mark Mercer lowered the flag on the dock to half-mast after the death of two crew members on the Arctic Fox II Tuesday morning.

Early in the morning of Aug. 11, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued one fisherman about 136 kilometres (85 miles) offshore of Cape Flattery in Washington state.

There were three people on the 20-metre (66 foot) boat when the U.S. Coast Guard received a mayday call from the Canadian-based fishing vessel. The Arctic Fox II was reportedly taking on water and all three people aboard planned to abandon ship. The fisherman who hailed for help said they were wearing survival suits, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed the sole survivor from the vessel is a 19-year-old man, whose identity is not being released. All crew on the boat were from Vancouver Island.

“They deserve all the respect that they can get. And that’s one of the few things I can do for them and their families. So that’s my main concern,” Mercer said.

The news coming as a shock to those who knew the vessel’s skipper, named by friends as Tom Lindberg, including local resident Ben Irwin.

“I just found out about the Arctic Fox twenty minutes ago. Sad to see her go. Especially loss of life. It’s not a nice feeling,” Irwin said.

Four years ago, a fire damaged the then 68-year old fishing boat.

At the time of Tuesday’s tragedy, the boat and its crew were commercial fishing for tuna.

So far in 2020, there have been three deaths in B.C.’s commercial fishery.

“In general, the fatality rate, or the number of fatalities we hear of typically average one per month across Canada,” Ryan Fort, the program director with Fish Safe BC, said.

The owners of the Arctic Fox II, the Shawnigan Lake-based Teague Fishing Corporation,  issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.   It said it is cooperating with the ongoing investigation regarding the loss of the Arctic Fox II.

“We are grieving the loss of crew aboard the vessel and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families,” the company said.

The Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the cause of the deadly incident.

Mary Griffin