Capilano Fishing Ltd. v. The "Qualicum Producer"

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

This was an action for damages suffered during the 1997 herring fishery when the Defendant’s vessel cut the net of the Plaintiffs’ vessel. The Plaintiffs claimed damages for the net, for the value of the lost catch and for the costs of fishing licences thrown away. The Defendants denied negligence and claimed the right to limit liability. On the issue of liability the trial judge found that the Master of the Defendant vessel was negligent in that he was aware of the Plaintiffs’ vessel yet manoeuvred his vessel in a direction that ultimately led to the collision. On the matter of limitation, the trial judge found that the Defendant vessel was well equipped and had a competent Master and crew and, therefore, held that the Defendants were without “fault or privity” and entitled to limit their liability to the amount of approximately $40,000.00. On appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the finding on liability but overturned the finding on limitation. The appeal court adopted the reasoning from North Ridge Fishing Ltd. et al. v The “Prosperity” et al.,(2000) 78 B.C.L.R. (3d) 388 and held that any owner who permits his vessel to participate in the roe herring fishery is not entitled to limit liability since the fishery compels the sacrifice of safe navigation and good seamanship. (Note: This case was decided under the old limitation of liability regime. Under the new regime the limitation amount is substantially higher ($500,000.00 for vessels under 300 tons) and the owner is entitled to limit unless the claimant establishes a personal act or omission committed with intent to cause loss, or recklessly, with the knowledge that loss would probably result.)