HALIFAX - The probe into the sinking of a fishing boat off the coast of Newfoundland might look at whether legal definitions are needed to determine when a fishing vessel is overloaded, the lead investigator examining the tragedy said Wednesday.
Pierre Murray of the Transportation Safety Board said survivors he interviewed gave conflicting statements on how low the Sea Gypsy's stern sat in the water before it sank Saturday, claiming at least one life.
"I heard all kinds of things when I was there (in Newfoundland)," Murray said, noting that the distance between the deck of the vessel and the ocean surface remain in dispute among the crew members.
"I heard a half a foot, I heard a foot, I heard three feet."
Murray said there's no legal definition to determine when a fishing boat is overloaded, as there is for virtually every other commercial boat.
"As it stands today there is no such thing as overloading a fishing vessel. There is no maximum load mark on a fishing vessel," he said.
"It is a controversial issue, and it's not a very easy issue to resolve. However, this thing (the sinking) will force us to have a second look at it again."
Murray said Transport Canada attempted to bring in rules on maximum loads for fishing vessels, but it had encountered resistance from the fishing industry due to the various sizes and structures of fishing vessels.
Officials with Transport Canada were unavailable for comment.
The captain and two other men were rescued in Saturday's sinking. A deckhand died and another has not been found since the incident.
One survivor, deckhand Jimmy Kavanagh of Calvert, N.L., told CBC on Tuesday that the vessel was overloaded with shrimp.
But vessel owner Laurie Sullivan, who was not on board, said Monday there was "a regular load." He declined further comment Wednesday.
Murray cautioned that it is early in the investigation, and it remains to be seen if loading played a role in the sinking.
The Sea Gypsy, a shrimp fishing boat, was returning with its catch on Saturday morning when its stern holds filled with water and sank about 120 kilometres east of St. John's.