Los Angeles Coast Guard focuses on safety of commercial fishing fleet

SAN PEDRO, Calif. — After several seasons of incidents involving commercial fishing vessels in the local squid fishery, Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach launched a safety outreach and enforcement campaign called “Operation Safe Squid.” Started in the later part of the 2005-2006 season this effort to monitor safety has become a yearly affair.

Operation Safe Squid uses a multi-phase approach to reduce or eliminate casualties within the squid fishery in Southern California. The first phase speaks to reduce incidents through education and consists primarily of dock visits, dockside safety exams, and local training sessions for fishermen. The second phase include enforcement operations concentrated on at-sea boardings of vessels to ensure compliance with federal safety and fisheries regulations.

Purse seine vessels used in the Southern California squid fishery are commonly restructured or modified from their original design. These modifications are sometimes completed without proper stability tests to ensure the vessel can withstand operations in the open ocean. These changes to the vessel’s operational capability without any quality assurance heightens the risks of a casualty (e.g. capsizing) occurring.

This year, out of 84 purse seine vessels with permits to fish for squid, there were 66 boats operating. Safety checks took place aboard 37 of these vessels. Only 17 out of that 37 were in compliance with safety regulations.

Additionally, out of 63 permitted light boats, there were about 50 boats operating this year. When safety checks were performed aboard these vessels, there was a 40% rate of compliance with safety regulations.

To ensure compliance with federal and state fisheries regulations, joint operations were conducted between Coast Guard, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the California Department of Fish and Game. Out of 25 vessels boarded, five were found to be in violation of national and state fisheries regulations.

The operation and its affect on the prime squid fishing season were extremely positive. During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, there were no lost vessels or major casualties aboard any vessels operating in the Southern California squid fishery.

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