Coast Guard Works To Protect Crab Fishermen

The Coast Guard is teaming with Oregon and Washington state authorities to monitor the commercial crab fishing fleet across the Oregon and Washington coasts to ensure safety and enforce the laws and regulations associated with the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

The Dungeness crab fishery officially opened Dec. 15, 2016 for pre-soak south of Cape Blanco, Oregon, and the states of Oregon and Washington respectively set an opening date of Jan. 1, 2017, at 9 a.m., for commercial crabbing from Cape Blanco north to Klipsan Beach, Washington and north of Klipsan Beach to Queets River, January 7, at 9 a.m., Coast Guard aircraft have conducted numerous over-flights of Oregon crab fishing grounds to monitor the pre-soak and the opening in southern Oregon.  The Coast Guard will expand patrols up the Oregon and Washington coasts as the season opens in all areas.  These efforts assist Oregon and Washington state fish and wildlife officials monitor the state regulated fishery while enhancing Coast Guard search and rescue capabilities. 

Coast Guard fishing vessel examiners have provided two-day Drill Conductor Training courses to 54 fishermen in Astoria, Newport and Charleston this season.  These courses familiarize fishermen with survival equipment and procedures in preparation to conduct drills or respond to an actual emergency underway.  The Coast Guard has also teamed with Oregon State University to provide two-day first aid and CPR classes, created specifically for commercial fishermen in Astoria and Newport.  Commercial Fishing Vessel safety examiners have conducted 68 exams since November and are conducting exams as requests come in. Fishermen can contact the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety dockside examiners at 503-240-9373 to request an exam.

Crabbing is a state regulated fishery, so the Coast Guard assists its partner agencies when called upon with personnel or assets to patrol the fishing grounds. The Coast Guard’s primary concern is the safety of the fishermen and their vessels. This is accomplished through both preventative measures such as mandatory dockside safety examination requirements and voluntary training programs, and rapidly responding to marine casualties if and when they occur to save lives and property.”

“Dungeness crab season coincides with some of the most dangerous sea conditions encountered on the Pacific Northwest Coast,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Morris, enforcement chief, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River.  “The Coast Guard emphasizes that having the proper safety and survival equipment up to date and properly installed is legally required and could be the difference between life and death.”

Two deaths were recorded during the 2016 Dungeness crab season, which began Jan.1, 2016. Both lives were lost during separate incidents near the Coos Bay entrance involving the fishing vessels Sara Jo and Patty AJ. Historically, up to 50 percent of the annual catch is landed in the first two weeks of the season, with 80 to 90 percent harvested during the first 2 to 3 months.  Due to the delay to the season start, if catch rates are successful, activity may remain moderate to heavy through early March.

The Coast Guard responds to several search and rescue cases during the Dungeness crab season every year and will continue to be on high alert for increased search-and-rescue activity.Fishermen can go to http://www.fishsafe.info/ and click on the “Checklist Generator Page” page to download a list of actions they can take to prepare for the Dungeness crab season, which include topics such as documentation, navigation equipment, lifesaving equipment and firefighting equipment.

Information provided by US Coast Guard. Photo courtesy of Simply Design Studios.