Coast Guard Promotes Safe Crab Season

SEATTLE – With severe weather approaching the region, the Coast Guard reminds commercial fishermen to be prepared for and stay aware of these very challenging conditions. Strong winds and heavy surf are forecast over the next several days. Adverse weather conditions not only affect fishing vessels, but can jeopardize the potential for a successful search and rescue mission by the Coast Guard as well.

Commercial Dungeness crabbing has the highest fatality rate of any West Coast fishery and traditionally takes place during the region’s worst weather; this year is no exception. The Coast Guard responded to near catastrophe when a crab-fishing vessel was knocked on its side and lost over 200 crab pots due to heavy wind and sea conditions Saturday. This commercial vessel put to sea despite a Coast Guard warning to stay in port. This action by the vessel’s operator not only endangered his crew but those who responded to assist. Based on these circumstances the master could face civil penalties for negligent operations of his vessel.

This weather warning for crab fishermen is only a portion of an annual effort to ensure commercial vessel safety known as “Operation Safe Crab.” Under the program commercial fisherman can receive safety examination with an ability, in most cases, to fix safety discrepancies on the spot. Serious problems, however, such as overloading, lack of watertight integrity, missing primary lifesaving equipment, or non-functioning EPIRBs may result in a vessel being restricted from operating until the deficiencies are corrected.

The Coast Guard recommends skippers avoid crossing a river bar when restrictions are in place for recreational vessels of a similar size, conduct emergency drills with their crews and have crew wear life jackets while on deck.

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