Fishing vessel exams offered for Bristol Bay

Amber Lukin aboard the fishing vessel Chelsea D in Cordova Harbor. (June 5, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Commercial fishermen heading out to harvest salmon in Bristol Bay this summer are invited to participate in free dockside Coast Guard vessel exams to identify any safety issues onboard before getting underway.

The exams focus on safety and address issues ranging from flares, charts and navigational signals to fire extinguishers, emergency position indicating radio beacons and serviceability of immersion suits. They take about half an hour, ensure compliance with all federal regulations and lessen the likelihood of getting boarded at sea, said Russ Hazlett, fishing vessel safety examiner from Sector Anchorage.

Each vessel that passes the dockside exam earns a decal.

With the Coast Guard planning law enforcement operations in Bristol Bay this summer, fishermen are encouraged to schedule exams and comply with regulations or risk civil penalties and possibly have their trip terminated due to carriage violations, said Cmdr. Scott Smith, response chief for Sector Anchorage.

Exam dates include June 8-22 in King Salmon, June 15-26 in Dillingham and June 15-19 at Egegik. To sign up for an exam, call 907-717-6270 or 907-538-9748 for King Salmon, 907-538-4103 for Dillingham or 907-538-8062 for Egegik.

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.

“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 Lt. Cmdr. Jereme Altendorf, a Coast Guard emergency management specialist. “We are fully committed to taking hypervigilant precautions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.” 

All inspectors will be tested for COVID-19 before each deployment, followed by appropriate quarantine procedures, and wear protective fear in accordance with state health mandates.

The Coast Guard also strongly recommended that all harvesters wear life jackets when on deck.  In 2019 several fishermen died after falling overboard.  None of them were wearing life jackets.