Federal, state agencies ensure safe and legal Halibut Derby off Pacific Northwest coast

A 45-foot response boat crew from Coast Guard Station Point Judith escorts the disabled fishing boat Lois Virginia into Point Judith Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. Lois Virginia became disabled about 30 miles south of Block Island and made it back to shore with the help of the Coast Guard and two good Samaritan boat crews.WARRENTON, Ore. — The Coast Guard and its partner agencies National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Oregon State Police and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a coordinated law enforcement effort throughout the three-day Halibut Derby ensuring safe and legal fishing among the fishing fleets from northern Oregon and southern Washington.

The combined efforts of the partner agencies resulted in 17 boardings to ensure that fishing was being conducted safely and according to state and federal regulations.

Fisheries violations enforced included invalid document length, which was falsely reported to gain a greater quota; another fishing crew was sited for the catching of undersized fish and the use of illegal fishing gear – resulting in the seizure of the crew’s entire catch by NOAA upon return to the docks, and another crew had two fish seized for being undersized, which came with a $400 fine for each fish. Safety violations enforced were for expiration of life rafts and distress signals.

“One of the 11 statutory missions of the Coast Guard is the protection of living marine resources,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Morris, enforcement division chief, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “Each agency has a role to play in protecting an important source of our nation’s economy. Teaming up with our partner agencies helps the Coast Guard and our LE partners meet the needs of that mission.”

This year’s Halibut Derby has occurred on three separate days, June 22, July 6, and July 20 in the area known as Astoria Canyon, which is about 25 miles offshore typically along the 600-foot depth curve.

Coast Guard crews from Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Coast Guard Station Tillamook Bay in Garibaldi, Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment, in Ilwaco, Washington, Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor in Westport, Washington, Coast Guard Cutter Cuttyhunk and Coast Guard Cutter Swordfish, homeported in Port Angeles, Washington were all involved in enforcement efforts.

Aircrews aboard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from Coast Guard Cutter Air Station Astoria conducted six living marine resource patrols to ensure fishing didn’t start too early, finish too late or take place in restricted areas. No detections of early or late fishing by the fishing fleet were found during the patrols.

The crews of cutters Swordfish and Cuttyhunk also completed search and rescue missions assisting disabled vessels offshore and towing them to safety with the assistance of boatcrews from Station Cape Disappointment.

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