Coast Guard Enforces Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety

Thursday, December 18, 2003
With the tragic deaths of three Massachusetts fishermen last weekend still resonating throughout the community, the Coast Guard continues to enforce boating safety regulations and, when necessary, force vessels to return to port to correct hazardous conditions. Two Bar Harbor, Maine-based fishing vessels, and one Scituate, Mass., based fishing vessel were boarded and consequently escorted back to their respective ports Tuesday after Coast Guard boarding teams discovered multiple safety violations. "We don't terminate fishing voyages because we're trying to make life difficult for the fishermen," said Ted Harrington, the First Coast Guard District's commercial fishing vessel safety specialist. "We terminate the voyages because we're concerned about the safety of the crew. These things can kill." Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Moray, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Jonesport, Maine, conducted routine boardings of the 31-foot fishing vessel Wetta the Betta, and the 38-foot Mindi Brendell. Both vessels are homeported in Bar Harbor, Maine, and both were diving for sea urchins. The three-person crew of the Wetta the Betta was operating 15 yards from Thrum Cap Island, Maine, and the two-person crew of Mindi Brendell was operating 20 yards west of Long Porcupine Island, Maine. Both vessels were operating with only one of the two fire extinguishers required for vessels of that size, both had expired distress signals, and neither had identifying marks on their personal flotation devices or life ring. The voyages were terminated shortly after 4 p.m. and the two vessels were escorted back to Bar Harbor. At approximately the same time, a boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter Flyingfish, an 87-foot patrol boat based in Boston, was conducting a routine boarding of the Scituate, Mass., -based vessel Katie Marie. The Katie Marie did not have sufficient immersion suits for its three-person crew. The boarding team was authorized to terminate the Katie Marie's voyage, and escort them back to Scituate. "Fishermen are encouraged to keep the safety equipment in good condition and close by and to conduct drills so that all on board know how to use it," Harrington said. "With the time constraints during emergencies, people need to envision what can happen before it happens, and prepare for it." "Things go wrong so quickly," Harrington said. "Seconds can make the difference between life and death." The Coast Guard offers fishermen free dockside examinations to help them bring their vessels into full compliance with all federal regulations. The program involves a non-threatening, non-adversarial inspection by qualified Coast Guard individuals, and is strictly for the benefit of the fishermen. Fines for violation of safety requirements on board commercial fishing vessels can range from $200 up to $10,000 per violation.
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