Coast Guard numbers released for Operation Safe Catch

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

Operation Safe Catch was the services 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 Delaware Bay crewmembers, stationed in Philadelphia, 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 Delaware Bay crewmembers and Auxiliary offered a total of 94 commercial fishing vessel safety exams and conducted 91. Of these 91 exams, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary issued 74 decals for the fishing vessels. This produced a 97 percent voluntary exam participation rate and an 81 percent exam decal issuance rate. Others examples for Sector Delaware Bay’s participation were:

  • Conducted four commercial fishing vessel safety drill conductor courses in Cape May, N.J. The two-day courses provided practical, hands-on experience in survival equipment use and procedures.
  • Held a stability symposium in Cape May, N.J., educating local fishing crews on stability and watertight integrity.
  • Provided fishing vessel safety training to its boarding officers and boarding teams from all cutters and stations within its area of responsibility.
  • Identified 15 fishing vessels with emergency position indicating radio beacon registration numbers incorrectly entered into the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s EPIRB database.

The second phase of the operation was enforcement. This phase included 149 fishing vessels boarded at sea by Sector Delaware Bay crewmembers. Of those boardings, 91 were the first time the fishing vessel was boarded in 12 months and 58 of them were the first time they were boarded in 36 months.

As a result of the boardings three violations were issued and one voyage was 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 beacon generally focus on surviving a casualty.

“Operation Safe Catch provided the Coast Guard a welcome opportunity to strengthen our relationship with local fishermen, gain a better understanding of their operations and work more closely toward reducing the number of casualties while on the water,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Maiorine, chief of inspection division at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay.

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 www.fishsafe.info

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