Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter returns home after living marine resources protection mission in the Bering Sea
Posted by PA1 Jon-Paul Rios, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
ALAMEDA, Calif.—An Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter returned home to Alameda, Tuesday afternoon, after a successful 63-day deployment protecting living marine resources among the fishing fleets in the Bering Sea.
The 126-person crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf conducted 26 boardings while deployed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, also home-ported in Alameda. This deployment was the first demonstration of a multi-crewed National Security Cutter.
“We conducted a turnover in a short amount of time and had a successful patrol,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Hess, a boatswains mate and small boat crew member.
The Coast Guard presence in the Bering Sea is to respond to search and rescue cases and to board and inspect commercial fishing vessels. When inspecting vessels, the Coast Guard examines onboard safety equipment and monitors catch and processing to ensure resources are not exploited.
“Sailing in Alaska is always a challenge because of the extreme weather and vast distances to cover,” said Capt. Laura Collins, Bertholf commanding officer. “We patrolled from north of the Pribilof Islands to the ice edge in Bristol Bay protecting fisheries, standing by for search and rescue and projecting sovereign presence to the far reaches of our Nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It was also terrific to experience the beautiful wildlife and rugged snow-covered terrain of the Aleutian Islands.”
Alaskan fisheries are a multi-billion-dollar industry and protecting living marine resources is essential for sustainability of the ecosystem and preventing unrecoverable depletion of the fish and crustacean populations.
“I enjoyed boarding fishing vessels and talking to fishermen, learning about their daily lives,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Luabena, a boarding team member and small boat engineer. “It was a good opportunity to build positive relations between the government and the commercial fishing industry.”
Included in the vessels boarded was the well-known crabbing vessel Cornelia Marie, featured on the Deadliest Catch.
“The most exciting part of the boarding is embarking the ladder,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Cody Bartlett, a boarding officer, “It’s the most dangerous and uncertain.”
Embarking and disembarking the fishing vessels is often the most complex part of the boarding evolutions. The coxswain skillfully maneuvers the small boat while the boarding team members time their step to or from the embarkation ladder, regularly with freezing spray drenching those in the boat.
Patrolling the Bering Sea is a unique mission for the crew of the Bertholf. In recent years the crew has been sent to the Eastern Pacific on counter drug patrols.
The patrol presented the crew with many new challenges. Ultimately, the crew will be returning home with their expanded knowledge and ready to prepare the cutter for its re-activation from a year-long dry dock.