ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard will offer courtesy dockside examinations of commercial fishing vessels in Bristol Bay in anticipation of the 2020 Bristol Bay salmon fishery season.
The Coast Guard anticipates sending examiners to the following locations for public outreach and to encourage dockside exam participation:
King Salmon: June 8-22
Dillingham: June 15-26
Egegik: June 15-19
Examiners will conduct exams, which will address any safety issues that may be present before an operator gets underway. The examiners will not issue fines or other penalties for any problems they discover at the dock. The exams focus on safety and address items such as flares, charts, navigational signals, fire extinguishers, emergency position indicating radio beacons and the serviceability of immersion suits.
“The Coast Guard is carefully planning operations with an elevated awareness of the threat the current global pandemic poses to remote communities of Alaska,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jereme Altendorf, an emergency management specialist, whose duties focus on Arctic issues and the challenges presented by the Arctic to Sector Anchorage. “We are fully committed to taking hypervigilant precautions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.”
Coast Guard Sector Anchorage’s detailed plan to operate in the Arctic and Western Alaska this season includes specific steps the agency will take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Each inspector will be tested for COVID-19 before each deployment, followed by appropriate quarantine procedures. Inspectors will wear protective equipment in accordance with state health mandates and practice social distancing.
“Coast Guard dockside examinations are free, take about half an hour, ensure compliance with all federal regulations and can reduce the likelihood of getting boarded at sea,” said Russ Hazlett, fishing vessel safety examiner from Sector Anchorage.
“We are planning law enforcement operations on the water in the Bristol Bay region this summer,” said Cmdr. Scott Smith, response chief for Sector Anchorage. “Fisherman are encouraged to schedule exams, and comply with regulations or risk civil penalties and possibly having their voyage terminated due to carriage violations.”
Fishermen are encouraged to sign up for an exam by calling and speaking directly with one of the Coast Guard examiners working in Dillingham at 907-538-4103, Egegik at 907-538-8062, and King Salmon 907-717-6270 or 907-538-9748.
Boats can also choose to signal they are ready for an exam by running a ring buoy up high on the mast or on the bow in a visible location.
Each vessel that passes a dockside exam earns a decal. Fishermen operating vessels with recently-issued decals may benefit by being less likely to accommodate an at-sea law enforcement boarding.
In 2019, several fishermen died after falling overboard. None of them were wearing life jackets. The Coast Guard continues to strongly recommend that all fishermen wear life jackets when on the deck of any vessel.
Vessel operators are reminded of the requirements for operating a vessel upon the navigable waters of Bristol Bay.
For more information on preparing for vessel examinations, operators may visit http://www.fishsafewest.info/ to complete a checklist generator that will provide a detailed pre-examination checklist.
Additional information regarding the Bristol Bay salmon fisheries can be found at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.