Coast Guard encourages fishing vessel safety examinations for the 2013 halibut and sablefish fisheries


AMSEA Safety Drills

Alaska State Wildlife Troopers from the 156-foot patrol vessel Stimson receive water safety and survival instruction from Charlie Medlicott, a Coast Guard commercial fishing vessel safety examiner, in Unalaska, Alaska, Feb. 29, 2012. Medlicott teaches the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association’s drill conductor course and conducts fishing vessel safety exams. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jake Vickers.

The month of March marks the beginning of the halibut and sablefish seasons, the longest running fishing seasons in Alaska. Any seasoned Alaskan mariner knows that fishing on the open water is dangerous business, but not every fisherman is properly prepared for the worst case scenario or a stroke of bad luck that crosses their bow. Mariners can improve their preparedness by getting a free commercial  fishing vessel safety exam and ensure their compliance with the regulations currently in place and the ones that will be required by 2015.

 “The Coast Guard strongly encourages fishing vessel owners to complete an exam and get their decal,” said Lawrenson.  “Some vessels, including halibut individual fishing quota fishermen, are now required by the National Marine Fisheries Service to have a valid decal prior to carrying a mandatory observer aboard.  No decal means no observer. No observer means no fishing.”

 Last December, the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2012 was signed into law. This act, due to be mandatory in 2015, ensure that local fishermen working beyond three nautical miles off shore have had their vessels inspected by Coast Guard examiners, and are properly equipped and prepared to handle the dynamic Alaskan weather while at sea.

 Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard 17th District commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator, explained that even though these Coast Guard examinations are not yet implemented, it is strongly encouraged that fishermen still get their vessels examined prior to the 2015 cutoff date. 

Fishing vessel Baranof at-sea boarding

Seaman Niels Christiansen (right) and Seaman Bobby Myers, both members of a cutter Sherman boarding team, inspect a life raft aboard the fishing vessel Baranof Nov. 20, 2008, during a law enforcement boarding. Boarding teams operate in extreme weather and sea conditions to prevent violations of U.S. law, inspecting fishing licenses and permits, emergency alarms and drills, logbooks and safety and firefighting equipment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.

Lawrenson explained that fortunately, most of the fishing industry is aware of these requirements.

 “We are anecdotally seeing the pools of observed vessels having 80 percent or higher decal compliance,” Lawrenson said.  “As always in Alaska, the difficulty in delivering services, such as dockside exams, is distance and accessibility. We are strongly encouraging vessels in remote areas to get their decals at the first opportunity, because there may not be access to an examiner if folks wait to the last minute, especially in these times of budget restrictions.”

 Fishermen are also encouraged to visit and click the link to the checklist generator. This application takes input on the fishing vessel, such as length, persons aboard, where it operates, etc., and generates a list of requirements that apply to that specific fishing vessel, allowing owners to know exactly what the Coast Guard dockside examiner is going to look at before their official examination.

 “The whole idea is to minimize the number of visits to a fishing vessel in order to get them into compliance,” said Lawrenson. logoFor more specific information on the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2012 visit:

 To contact local examiners in your area contact:

 Juneau: Mr. Scott Wilwert – 907-463-2248

 Sitka: Mr. Steven Ramp – 907-966-5620

 Ketchikan: Mr. Jim Paul – 907-225-4496 Ext. 233

 Valdez: Chief Machinery Technician Steven Blythe – 907-835-7225

 Anchorage: Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jon-Michael Jones – 907-271-1954

 Kodiak: Mr. Aaron Jessup – 907-486-5918

 Dutch Harbor:  Lt. Jim Fothergill – 907-581-3466

 Homer/Kenai: Lt. Sarah Geoffrion – 907-235-3292

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