Safety outreach to Alaska island communities

 

Chief Petty Officer Shawn Erwin (right) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Alexander, marine science technicians at Sector Anchorage, conducted a voluntary dockside commercial fishing vessel safety exam with a fisherman in Toksook Bay, Alaska, Sept. 25, 2012. Erwin and Alexander conducted the visits to Toksook Bay and Mekoryuk as part of an outreach effort to educate fishermen prior to Oct. 16, when dockside commercial fishing vessel safety exams become mandatory for vessels that operate three nautical miles or more from shore. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Story by Ensign Victoria Stockton

Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, Alaska, inspectors visited remote western Alaska fishing communities on Nunivak Island and Nelson Island in the Bering Sea to conduct commercial fishing vessel safety exams, facility exams, and outreach to schools and communities Sept. 23 through 27.

Chief Petty Officer Shawn Erwin and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Alexander, marine science technicians at Sector Anchorage, conducted the visits as part of an outreach effort to educate fishermen prior to Oct. 16, when dockside commercial fishing vessel safety exams become mandatory for vessels that operate three nautical miles or more from shore.  The mandatory program serves to make the fishing industry safer by ensuring compliance with all federal safety regulations before they get underway.

Currently, the dockside commercial fishing vessel safety exams are voluntary.  Commercial fishermen can take the opportunity to have their vessel and all required equipment examined prior to getting underway without the Coast Guard taking enforcement action.

“If the entire fishing fleet is following the safety regulations, we have greater confidence that everyone will be properly equipped to handle unexpected situations,” said Cmdr. Adam Tyndale, chief of response, Sector Anchorage. “We want the fleet to do what they do best for the industry and not have to worry about their equipment or their vessel while out at sea.”

Once the commercial fishing vessel safety exam is completed, and the vessel is in compliance, a decal is issued which is good for two years from the date of issue.  However, undergoing the exam does not exempt vessels from being boarded by the Coast Guard at sea.

In an effort to help ensure fishing and boating safety across the many communities in Alaska, Erwin and Alexander conducted 13 vessel inspections in the remote fishing village of Mekoryuk.  The village is located on north side of Nunivak Island, 30 miles west of the Alaska mainland coast.  They visited the local high school and elementary school to discuss boating safety and careers in the Coast Guard. 

At Toksook Bay, a village on Nelson Island, Erwin and Alexander conducted 18 fishing vessel exams and held a community outreach meeting to discuss the new mandatory fishing vessel safety exams.  Erwin and Alexander also spoke to the local high school survival class on vessel safety and careers in the Coast Guard.

“Working with the villages of Mekoryuk and Toksook Bay was a great experience for both the Coast Guard and the community,” said Erwin.  “Each village relies heavily on the fishing industry for their economy.  The commercial fishermen were really eager to increase their knowledge.  Their cooperation to comply with the regulations was hugely positive.”

For more information about manditory commercial fishing vessel safety exams visit http://www.uscgnews.com/go/doc/4007/1541291/