PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A love of seafood may go hand-in-hand with living in a coastal area, but the United States Coast Guard warns commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
Coast Guard leaders say this is a busy time of year for commercial fishing, and their number one priority is making sure everyone is following regulations. It could make the difference between life and death.
There are approximately 5,800 commercial fishing vessels throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Especially this time of year, many of those supply the oysters, crabs and scallops in the region.
But the work to get those items on the plate can be dangerous, therefore the Coast Guard is working to enforce safety regulations.
There are examples of when having the right equipment and tools worked to save lives.
“We did a dockside safety exam on that vessel on September the ninth of 2017. On Sept. 11 of 2017, they had a casualty at sea, which sank the vessel,” said Andrew Diggs the Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiner at Coast Guard Sector Virginia.
In the video, they provided you can see five people were rescued 60 miles east of Cape Charles. Diggs says it’s the equipment they had that helped them to safety.
All vessels and their owners are supposed to have mandatory safety exams and a registered Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
“The captain was the last person aboard the helicopter and in his arms only like a baby was the EPIRB,” he added.
“Makes the search and rescue more smooth. Having all the boxes checked is relatively easy. But when it’s not done, it can really complicate things,” said Lt. J.G. Andrew Hallock, a command duty officer at the Coast Guard 5th District Command Center.
It is a piece of equipment that, when registered correctly, can notify the Coast Guard if you are in distress. But each mariner is supposed to prepare themselves and the boat before they hit the water.
“Is the vessel state registered or documented? What is the length of the vessel? How many persons are on board? Is it operating in colder water? And does the vessel operate inside or outside the boundary line?” said Diggs.
All of these on the checklist and more that can be done dockside. Coast Guard officials say following these protocols and regulations can mean the difference between life and death.
“The commercial fishing industry as a whole has come leaps and bounds from where they were in regards to safety. 20 years ago, it was a little bit of a wild wild west. Nowadays, we are much more cognizant of the safety requirements. However, it does not exclude that accidents can happen at sea,” said Diggs.
For more information on how to schedule a voluntary dockside exam or on how to dispose of an EFIB, visit: https://www.fishsafe.info/docksideexamrequest.htm or contact your nearest commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator
Question about how to register a beacon: www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or questions on EPIRB registration call 1-888-212-SAVE (7283)