Coast Guard releases Operation Safe Catch numbers for Maryland and DC

BALTIMORE – The Coast Guard has completed Operation Safe Catch and released the final numbers Thursday after six months of education, outreach and enforcement.

Operation Safe Catch was the service’s marine safety effort to improve commercial fishing vessel safety and prevent loss of life and property at sea. It began in November 2009 and continued until April 2010. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore crewmembers, stationed in Baltimore, and members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary participated in Operation Safe Catch, with the Coast Guard’s 5th District, as a response to the loss of vessels and lives and was intended to focus attention on those areas of critical importance covered by existing fishing vessel safety standards.

During phase one of the operation, education and outreach, Sector Baltimore crewmembers and Auxiliary offered a total of 138 commercial fishing vessel safety exams and conducted 117. Of these 117 exams, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary issued 98 decals for the fishing vessels. This produced an 85 percent voluntary exam participation rate and an 84 percent exam decal issuance rate. Another example of Sector Baltimore’s participation would include the Maryland Waterman Association Expo in Ocean City, Md., where Sector Baltimore personnel provided a safety and stability presentation.

The second phase of the operation was enforcement. This phase included 74 fishing vessels boarded at sea by Sector Baltimore crewmembers. Of those boardings, 28 were the first time the fishing vessel was boarded in 12 months and 46 of them were the first time they were boarded in 36 months.

As a result of the boardings, 24 violations were issued and five voyages were terminated and returned to port.

Between Jan. 1, 2004, and Nov. 1, 2009, in the Coast Guard’s 5th District, 51 commercial fishing vessel casualties resulted in 37 vessels and 28 lives lost. In the first 10 months of 2009 alone, there were nine fishing vessels and eight lives lost.

Federal fishing vessel safety regulations require specific safety equipment including immersion suits, life rafts and emergency position indicating radio beacons which generally focus on surviving a casualty.

“Operation Safe Catch provided Sector Baltimore an opportunity to focus our efforts on educating mariners about the dangers of operating on the water during cold weather months,” said Lt. Sara Wallace, the Sector Baltimore command center chief.

The Coast Guard continues to actively engage commercial fishing vessel safety and encourage fishermen to continue with free, no-fault dockside exams.

For more information about the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety program visit

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