Coast Guard to conduct dockside safety exams for Bristol Bay, Alaska, salmon fishery

Coast Guard Alaska News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard will offer courtesy dockside examinations of commercial fishing vessels in Bristol Bay in anticipation of the 2014 Bristol Bay salmon fishery

The fishery is slated to begin June 1 with the majority of the fishing taking place from June 15-July 15.

The Coast Guard anticipates sending examiners to Dillingham and King Salmon June 9 to begin public outreach and encourage dockside exam participation June 9-20. Examiners will also be available in Egegik from June 9-13.

During the fishery, the Coast Guard will work with the Alaska State Troopers to enforce federal boating and commercial fishing vessel requirements.

Boat owners should signal examiners when they are ready for an exam by running a ring buoy up high on the mast in a highly visible location. Fishermen can also sign up for an exam by calling Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, at 907-428-4154, or by speaking directly with one of the Coast Guard examiners working in Dillingham and King Salmon’s harbors.

These free exams give fishermen an opportunity to find and address any safety issues that may be present before they get underway. The examiners will not issue fines or other penalties for any problems they discover at the dock. The exams focus on safety and address items such as flares, charts, navigational signals, fire extinguishers, emergency position indicating locator beacons and the serviceability of immersion suits.

“It’s better and safer to identify any problems your vessel might have during an examination than to have it present itself once you’re underway,” said Chief Petty Officer Jon Jones, commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator Western Alaska.

To better prepare for a vessel examination, operators should visit and complete a checklist generator that will provide a detailed pre-examination checklist.

The number of lives lost during Alaska fisheries has been in decline since the adoption of the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Act of 1988. The leading cause of fatalities in the commercial fishing industry is drowning due to the loss of a fishing vessel. However, falling overboards is still a serious concern. The extremely cold temperatures of Alaskan waters coupled with weather conditions and vast distances from shore are a deadly combination.

Of the 641 deaths that occurred among fishermen in the United States from 1994 to 2004, 138 (30 percent) resulted from a fall overboard. In a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health analysis of Alaska fishing fatalities from 1990 to 2005, the rate of fatal falls overboard did not decrease despite a significant decrease in the overall rate of commercial fishing fatalities.

It is recommended that all fishermen wear personal flotation devices when on the deck of any vessel. There are more types and styles of PFDs available now than ever before, with several styles to fit the needs of commercial fishermen, including several new slim, lightweight, inflatable PFDs that are worn like suspenders and PFDs that are integrated into raingear.

Each vessel that passes a dockside exam earns a decal. Fishermen operating vessels with recently-issued decals benefit by being less likely to have to suspend fishing operations to accommodate an at-sea Coast Guard or Alaska State Trooper law enforcement boarding.

Coast Guard enforcement assets will be on scene during the opener and into the season to ensure the safety of all vessels working on the water. The Alaska State Troopers will conduct fisheries enforcement operations concurrently with the Coast Guard. Again, enforcement will focus on, but is not limited to, non-decaled vessels.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a total sockeye salmon run of approximately 27 million fish with a commercial harvest of nearly 18 million. The Coast Guard anticipates a fleet participation of up to 1,100 vessels.

Additional information regarding the Bristol Bay salmon fisheries can be found at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game website.



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