With halibut and sablefish fisheries opening on Saturday, the Coast Guard is encouraging fishermen to get a free commercial fishing vessel safety exam.
The exams help ensure compliance with current regulations and those that pass receive a decal, the Coast Guard said in a release.
The rules and regulations do not yet require fishermen operating beyond three nautical miles of the territorial sea baseline to pass a Coast Guard safety exam prior to the start of the fishing season — that regulation will begin to be implemented in 2015, the release states.
Still, 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, according to Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard 17th District commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator.
“No decal means no observer. No observer means no fishing,” Lawrenson said in a release.
Lawrenson said most in the fishing industry are aware of the requirements, and there’s been about an 80 percent or higher decal compliance rate from pools of vessels observed by the Coast Guard.
“As always in Alaska, the difficulty in delivering services, such as dockside exams, is distance and accessibility,” Lawrenson said. “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 fishsafe.info and click the link to the checklist generator. This application takes input on the fishing vessel, such as length, persons aboard, where it operates and generates a list of requirements that apply to that specific fishing vessel. This allows owners to know exactly what the Coast Guard dockside examiner is going to look at before their official examination.
For more information on the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2012, visit fishsafe.info.
Further questions about the exams can be directed to the local examiner in Juneau Scott Wilwert at 463-2248.