Coast Guard and Alaska Wildlife Troopers to Conduct Joint Operation

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Seventeenth Coast Guard District and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers (AWT) announced in Juneau today that a combined law enforcement operation will take place during the summer salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. The AWT vessels Stimson and Wolstad will be embarking Coast Guard Boarding Officers along with Troopers for underway boardings of salmon fishermen. The primary concentration will be on driftnet fishermen, and vessels tendering salmon in the Kvichak, Nushagak and Egigik Bay areas in northeastern Bristol Bay, from June 19, 2007 until July 15th. These vessels are primarily based out of Dillingham, King Salmon, Naknek and Egegik.

The main focus of at-sea enforcement will be to ensure compliance with federal fishing vessel safety regulations. Depending upon the vessel’s length and where it is operating, these requirements include survival suits, ring buoys, EPIRBs, survival craft, flares, and fire extinguishers.

In order to help fishermen come into compliance, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage is again sending dockside examiners from June 10th thru June 20th to the ports of Naknek, King Salmon, Dillingham and Egegik to conduct voluntary dockside safety exams. These dockside exams are free, non-enforcement opportunities to have the Coast Guard check the vessel’s compliance at a time and place convenient to the owner, with no penalties if there are safety problems. Vessels that complete a voluntary dockside exam and are in total compliance are issued a “dockside examination decal,” valid for two years and displayed on the fishing vessel. Vessels with a valid decal are at the lowest priority for at-sea boardings.

Fishing vessels boarded at-sea and found to be grossly out of compliance, or with especially hazardous conditions, may have their trip “terminated,” and be directed back to port. These vessels will have to demonstrate compliance before being allowed to start fishing again. Lesser violations of the federal regulations may result in monetary civil penalties of up to $6500 per violation.

“This effort is being driven by the overriding goal to prevent the loss of lives at sea. Every year the Alaska Wildlife Troopers respond to search and rescue calls in Bristol Bay for vessels sinking or on fire. Therefore it is imperative that every vessel have its minimal required safety equipment onboard and in good working order,” stated Lt. Will Ellis of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Salmon fisherman can contact either Coast Guard Sector Anchorage at 907 271-1954, or the 17th District in Juneau at 907 463-2810, if they have questions about the federal safety regulations.

“We are hoping that fishermen will come to Bristol Bay this year prepared to be in compliance, that they will get their dockside exam decal before the fishing starts, and that they have a safe and profitable season,” stated Ken Lawrenson, the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator for the 17th District in Juneau.

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