Crew of Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley conducts fishery and safety patrol

Cutter

Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley on patrol. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Story by Lt. Cmdr. Brian Chambers

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley, a 282-foot medium endurance cutter, has experienced excellent weather during their Bering Sea patrol. The great weather has aided them in their mission to conduct fisheries boardings to keep mariners safe on the water and to ensure they’re complying with all federal laws and regulations. “Our mission is to ensure fishermen are fishing by the rules and have the correct safety gear onboard,” said Lt. Cmdr Brian Chambers, executive officer, Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley. For example, one boat with three crewmen was in the middle of the Bering Sea with no life jackets. That crew was ordered back to port and was issued a citation.

Boat OPS

Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley crew conducts smallboat operations while underway. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“This calendar year there have been six commercial fishing crewmember deaths; three were from fatal falls overboard, where none of the victims were wearing a flotation device,” said Kenneth Lawrenson, commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator, Coast Guard 17th District. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for any vessels operating more than three miles from the territorial sea baseline get their mandatory commercial fishing vessel safety examination for their vessel. Having the right safety equipment aboard a vessel is essential to the crew’s safety.”

Alex Haley is conducting a long-standing Coast Guard fisheries enforcement mission in the Bering Sea that goes back to the 1870’s when the agency conducted at-sea boardings to enforce laws governing the protection and sustainable harvest of northern fur seals in the Bering Sea off Alaska. The Coast Guard enforces fisheries laws and regulations as the only agency with the infrastructure and authority to project a law enforcement presence throughout the United State’s 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone and in key areas of the high seas.

The Coast Guard’s patrols in the Bering Sea support multiple operations including Arctic Shield operations. “With increased maritime traffic in the region, it’s extremely important that we conduct our statutory missions and maintain an active Coast Guard presence,” said Capt. Phillip Thorne, chief of enforcement branch, Coast Guard 17th District. “Our patrols increase our maritime domain awareness and our ability to quickly respond to a maritime emergency.”

The Coast Guard 17th District announced its Arctic Shield 2013 plans in May to protect the maritime community.

“We are committed to having a sustained presence in the region,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, Coast Guard 17th District. “As the nation’s lead federal agency for ensuring maritime safety and security in the Arctic, we will protect our nation’s interests, safeguard the environment, and strengthen our partnerships.”

After a successful Arctic Shield 2012 operation on the North Slope and Barrow, Arctic Shield 2013 will focus on Western Alaska and the Bering Strait, and will continue the three-pronged approach with outreach, operations, and capability assessments.

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