Excerpt originally published in the Summer 2008 issue of the U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine as part of a special section—Capacity, Communication, Culture: The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Performance Plan.
Commercial fishing continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in America. The industry also faces severe economic pressures, including depleted stocks and limits on fishing, increasing fuel and other costs, and prices that have stagnated since at least 2000. This fosters an attitude of greater risk tolerance that can lead to less emphasis on training, safety equipment, and maintenance.
The Coast Guard has pursued improvements in safety in the commercial fishing industry since before World War II. Voluntary commercial fishing safety programs received considerable attention in the 1970s, and the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 provided authority to require survival equipment, but did little to address prevention efforts. http://www.uscgboating.org/
Outreach and Communication
To improve our impact, we will seek to add full-time civilian commercial fishing vessel safety examiners and coordinators. This will allow us to expand the voluntary dockside examination program and reach out to those in the fishing industry to help them understand and come into compliance with regulations for basic safety equipment and lifesaving devices.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary performs a significant number of these safety exams and is an integral part of the fishing vessel safety team. We will seek to expand auxiliary involvement and institutionalize its role. In particular, we will use auxiliarists in boarding officer training and include auxiliarists in fishing vessel casualty investigations.
We will continue to promote safety and best practices through active participation at conferences and industry trade shows and through printed materials.
We will come together within the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Advisory Committee to improve safety communications and risk tools to assist fishermen. Additionally, we will join forces with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (that staffs a field office in Alaska focused on fishing industry safety) and take advantage of this expertise to develop future strategies to reduce commercial fishing vessel deaths and injuries.
We will also seek to improve information sharing with insurance companies to better understand injury mechanisms and potential interventions, and will leverage relationships with safety equipment manufacturers to identify areas where new or improved products are needed.
We intend to maintain close relationships with state fisheries regulators and seek to leverage their authority to favorably impact commercial fishing vessel safety. We will also work with Canadian regulators to share solutions and develop common approaches to minimize deaths and injuries.
Maritime Law Enforcement
We will direct a robust program of fishing vessel safety enforcement to deter unsafe operation, detect violations, and educate the industry. We will encourage operational commands to provide capable and sufficient resources, to schedule activities to maximize access to vessels and crews, and to provide ample advance publicity to effectively announce the program and explain its purpose.
We will encourage effective coordination of at-sea boardings, by identifying vessels that pose a greater safety concern because the operators refused to allow a voluntary dockside examination or were found not in compliance.In all instances, we will emphasize the importance of keeping the process cooperative and non-adversarial.
For more information:
Full article and “Focus on Safety” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at www.uscg.mil/proceedings. Click on “archives” and then “2008 Vol. 65, Number 2” (Summer 2008).
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