Fatality-Free Fishing Season for 2022
A marine inspector with Coast Guard Sector Anchorage issues a decal to fishing vessel In’Em indicating that it passed a commercial fishing vessel safety exam in Naknek.
The commercial fishing season in Alaska saw zero fatalities during the fiscal year that ended September 30. The US Coast Guard says 2022 is only the second fatality-free season on record, after 2015.
Safety Is Catching
“I give most all the credit to the fishing industry when it comes to staying safe and alive,” says Scott Wilwert, commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator for the Coast Guard 17th District. “The efforts of Coast Guard fishing vessel examiners and maritime training organizations like the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association and the North Pacific Vessel Owners’ Association also play a vital role in preparing fishermen to survive an incident at sea and utilize the equipment they have onboard during an emergency.”
These statistics are measured in the federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1 through September 30. An operational fatality is defined as a death occurring because of an incident at sea, such as a man overboard, a sunken or lost vessel, or an on-deck accident.
“We definitely want to keep this momentum going through calendar year 2022 and beyond,” Wilwert says. “The linear trend of operational fatalities in the commercial fishing industry in Alaska has been steadily downward, and we want to continue to work with the industry to keep it that way. Dangers are ever present in the fishing industry and are the reason we’re encouraging mariners to remain vigilant when it comes to crew training and safety.”
Dockside safety exams became mandatory in 2015 for vessels operating beyond three nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline. Vessel operators need to be fully aware of the operating constraints that may pertain to their vessels, including awareness of the risks of both overloading a vessel, icing, and operating outside the restrictions of their stability letters as well as the crew’s ability.
Fishing vessel owners and operators are reminded of the importance of properly maintaining their vessel’s lifesaving equipment, ensuring that all crewmembers working on deck are wearing personal floatation devices, and conducting regular shipboard drills to maintain the crew’s proficiency at operating shipboard emergency equipment.
The Coast Guard also encourages owners and operators to review and be knowledgeable of the general maintenance and upkeep of their vessels. Minor hull leaks and machinery failures should be properly repaired and documented.