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Winter is Off to a Rough Start

Stern of the F/V Pappy's Pride floats just above the surface near Galveston, TX.

This winter has gotten off to a rough start when it comes to commercial fishing vessel casualties. On December 31, two crew survived and five perished when the F/V Scandies Rose capsized and sank near Sutwik Island in the Gulf of Alaska. One week later, the F/V Papa's Girl sank in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina. Two crew were rescued and two perished. This past Tuesday, the F/V Pappy's Pride collided in fog with the 600-foot chemical tanker, Bow Fortune, in Galveston, TX. Two crew were rescued by a good samaritan vessel, although one later died in hospital. The Coast Guard has suspended the search for the two missing crew.

That’s three boats and ten lives lost since the first of the year and as tragic as that is, these are not the only recent vessel casualties. These are just the accidents where lives were lost. On November 19, the F/V Imperial ran aground near Point Reyes, CA. All five crew were rescued and the vessel salvaged. The day after Christmas, the F/V Darean Rose flooded and rolled while attempting to maneuver after running aground near the fuel dock in Charleston, OR. Only the quick thinking and determined effort of the fuel dock attendant saved the three men trapped inside the pilothouse. A few miles away and three weeks later, rescuers freed three men from the overturned hull of the F/V Pacific Miner, where it washed up against the north jetty in Coos Bay.

In light of these many incidents, now might be a good time to review your vessel’s safety program. As you know, boats engaged in commercial fishing are required to carry a variety of safety and survival equipment. The specific types of gear your boat must carry depends on the vessel’s registration, area of operation, length, and other factors.

Regardless of which coast you fish on, the Coast Guard’s FishSafeWest.Info website is an excellent resource for determining the required gear for your fishing boat. The website’s Checklist Generator will create a list of vessel requirements based on the information you provide about your boat. Everyone onboard should know where the every piece of safety and survival gear is located. Post a vessel diagram where everyone can see it, with the locations of you boat's safety gear clearly marked. Be sure to orient new crew to the locations of your boats seacocks, fuel shutoff valves, electrical circuit breakers, and safety gear.

Your boat's safety gear will only work as well as the crew operating it. Train your crew on when and how to use your boat's safety equipment and conduct monthly drills of your boat's emergency procedures. If your boat is federally documented and fishing in federal waters, according to 46 CFR 28.270(c), the person conducting the drills must have taken U.S. Coast Guard-accepted training. AMSEA Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor classes meet that requirement and classes are often provided to commercial fishermen at a substantial discount, thanks to funding support from NIOSH and the Coast Guard. Check our course schedule regularly or get on the waiting list to receive an email message when we schedule a class in your area. Or give us a call at (907) 747-3287. We often schedule classes when we see that there is a group of fishermen requesting the class.

Winter weather adds additional hazards to an already hazardous occupation. Help keep your crew and yourself safe by ensuring that your boat's safety program is up to standard.

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