Coast Guard crew conducts Alaska fisheries boarding from national security cutter

BERING SEA - A small boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf launches from the stern of the cutter to assist with a boarding in the Bering Sea April 25, 2011. The cutter Bertholf has two small boats the crew is able to use during law enforcement operations and maritime emergencies, one from the side of the cutter and the other from the stern. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan Lally

KODIAK, Alaska – Crews aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf conducted a boarding on a U.S.-flagged trawler targeting flathead sole in the Bering Sea Tuesday.

This was the crew’s fourth fishing vessel boarding since departing Kodiak and utilized the cutter’s new technology to launch the small boats from the stern and side davit successfully.

The crew is experimenting with various courses and speeds for boat launches from the stern doors and the amidships davit during this patrol to develop procedures for the high to extreme seas off Alaska. During patrols off the Southwestern U.S. the stern launch doors have worked well for the crew in low to moderate seas for drug interdiction when speed and stealth are needed.

While aboard the trawler the boarding team looked at the vessel’s life saving equipment, documentation, engineering spaces, gear and catch and did not find any violations. They did find violations on boardings Friday and Monday of vessels targeting rex sole and pacific cod respectively. Both crews had exceeded their bycatch limits and had logbook errors.

“The boarding officer was able to educate the master on logbook etiquette and issued three violations, which will ultimately improve fisheries management in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska,” said Lt. j.g. Matthew Lisko, assistant weapons officer aboard Bertholf, about the boarding Friday.

The embarked HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak extends the cutter’s range by flying ahead at greater speeds than the cutter can travel at and reporting back their vessel observations and any information they gather by speaking to the fishing vessel crews over the radio.

The aircrews have also practiced landing to the deck of the Bertholf, in-flight refueling and traversing the cutter’s deck to hangar the aircraft. Hangering the helicopter on board the Bertholf is even more challenging than usual because the Bertholf has dual helicopter hangars and the hangar doors are off the centerline of the flight deck. This forces the crew to make a turn while moving forward on the deck rather than pulling straight in. This is a new experience for many Kodiak-based aircrews because the Bertholf is the first Coast Guard cutter other than an ice breaker with dual helicopter hangars.

The Bertholf is expected to spend several more weeks in the Bering Sea conducting fisheries boardings and patrolling critical habitat to ensure fishing is not taking place in closed areas or rookeries. They are also serving as a search and rescue asset.

The Bertholf is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Alameda, Calif. This is the crew’s first voyage to Alaska since the cutter was commissioned in 2008.

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