Coast Guard releases Operation Safe Catch numbers for Virginia and North Carolina

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

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’s Hampton Roads and North Carolina crewmembers, 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 Hampton Roads crewmembers and Auxiliary offered a total of 186 commercial fishing vessel safety exams and conducted 186. Of these 186 exams, the sector and Coast Guard Auxiliary issued 108 decals for the fishing vessels. This produced a 100 percent voluntary exam participation rate and a 63 percent exam decal issuance rate. Others examples for Sector Hampton Roads’ participation were:

? Held a stability symposium in Newport News, Va., 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, including three Atlantic Area Medium-endurance Cutters.

? Forty one percent of Sector Hampton Roads’ 155 high-risk vessels were contacted dockside.

? Identified 615 deficiencies and corrected them prior to vessel operation.

Phase one of Sector North Carolina’s operation, education and outreach, offered a total of 254 commercial fishing vessel safety exams and conducted 172. Of these 254 exams, the sector and Coast Guard Auxiliary issued 125 decals for the fishing vessels. This produced a 68 percent voluntary exam participation rate and a 73 percent exam decal issuance rate. Others examples for Sector North Carolina’s participation were:

? Held two stability symposiums within its area of responsibility, educating local fishing crews on stability and watertight integrity.

? Canvassed fish houses and marinas discussing safety and soliciting for exams.

The second phase of the operation was enforcement. This phase included 114 fishing vessels boarded at sea by Sector Hampton Roads crewmembers and 151 by Sector North Carolina crewmembers. Of those boardings by Sector Hampton Roads, 52 were the first time the fishing vessel was boarded in 12 months and 51 of them were the first time they were boarded in 36 months. Sector North Carolina’s boardings resulted in 66 fishing vessels being boarded for the first time in 12 months and 27 were boarded for the first time in 36 months.

As a result of the boardings Sector Hampton Roads issued 13 violations and terminated three vessels voyage and returned them to port while Sector North Carolina issued 15 violations and terminated four voyages and returned the vessels 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.

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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