Articles Posted in Alaska Fishing News

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Dutch Harbor remains the United States top commercial fishing port for 2016. NOAA’s annual fishing data report published last week showed fishing boats delivered 770 million pounds of product to Dutch Harbor in 2016 with a value of 198 million dollars. 2016 marked the 20th consecutive year Dutch Harbor has had the highest volume of commercial fishing landings. Kodiak was in the fourth overall spot in 2016 with 440 million pounds of commercial fish landed with a value of 107 million dollars. Nationally, commercial fishing landings in Alaska accounted for over 50 percent of the total commercial landings for the entire United States.

New Bedford Massachusetts had landings of 106 million pounds but had the highest value of landings at 326 million dollars. New Bedford has held the highest value of commercial fishing landings for 17 consecutive years. Westport Washington had 108 million dollars of commercial landings with a value of 59 million dollars. Top ports in Oregon were Astoria and Newport. The fish landed in Oregon was valued at over 100 million dollars.

Working as a commercial fisherman aboard fishing vessels in Alaska, Washington and Oregon is challenging and demanding work. Catching 770 million pounds of fish in a season comes at a high price for some crewmen in the form of death or serious injury. Commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

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Police have arrested a Sitka man in connection with a shooting aboard a fishing boat in Juneau. The incident happened on Saturday, November 4, 2017. Police responding to the shooting in Eliason Harbor found a man with a gunshot wound to his leg and evidence of blunt force trauma to his head.  A woman also found aboard the boat was reported uninjured. Nathan Leask reportedly came to the boat with a handgun and an altercation broke out resulting in one man being shot. Leask then fled the boat on foot. The police subsequently captured Leask in a local home. News sources indicate Leask was charged with first degree assault.

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A 33-year-old crewman aboard the Alaska fishing vessel Island Enterprise was airlifted by helicopter following a hand injury on July 6, 2017.   The crewman reportedly suffered a severe injury to his finger, which was “limb threatening”. A ship to shore medical service, Health Force Partners, contacted the Coast Guard on the Island Enterprise’s behalf about treatment for the injury, after consultation with the Coast Guard flight surgeon the crewman was evacuated from the vessel.   The Island Enterprise was approximately 152 miles north of Dutch Harbor. Weather conditions were reported as 35 mile per hour winds with 8-10 foot seas. The Island Enterprise is a 280-foot fish processor owned by Trident Seafoods. The circumstances surrounding the crewman’s injury is currently unknown.

In an emergency medical situation a fishing vessel may contact the United States Coast Guard for medical advice and assistance. To avoid unnecessary delays that may lead to medical complications and possible death a crewman may be airlifted from the vessel as happened in this case.

Health Force Partners is a private medical consulting firm utilized by many Alaska fishing companies. Health Force Partners’ “Physician Healthline” provides medical advice about treatment of injured crewman to the vessels owner and the employer. According to Health Force Partners web site the Physician Healthline is staffed 24 hours a day and can on the average provide a physician consultation within a few minutes of being contacted by a fishing vessel. Health Force Partners may work with the employer to coordinate emergency medical care and medical evacuation for an injured fisherman.

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July 3, 2017

Full loads of fish and heavy weather resulted in four Bristol Bay fishing boats reported to have swamped on Monday. The Coast Guard released news that four vessels were partially submerged in Nushagak Bay. One of the vessels reported to be involved is the F/V Ketok. Crewmembers from the vessels were rescued by other nearby fishing vessels. There were no reported injuries and the cause of the incidents is under investigation by the Coast Guard.

The incidents happened during a surge in the sockeye salmon run. Processors in the area reported a dramatic increase in deliveries on Monday after several weeks of declining catch. Heavily loaded vessels in rough seas can be a recipe for disaster. The race for catching the fish presents a short window of opportunity for Bristol Bay fishermen and when that window of opportunity mixes with bad weather the risks increase. Monday’s weather conditions were less than optimal with winds of 40 miles per hour.

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On Monday, June 19, 2017, USCG in Kodiak received a medevac request from the crew of the NEW DAWN. A crew member aboard the NEW DAWN sustained a broken ankle and after consultation with the duty flight surgeon, the decision was made to request medevac from the vessel due to the possible need for orthopedic surgery. A Jayhawk helicopter was dispatched to the vessel located in the vicinity of Shelikof Strait. The injured crew member was safely hoisted from the vessel and transported to Kodiak for medical treatment. The weather conditions at the time were reported to be mild with 17 mph winds.

The F/V New Dawn is a 44.8 foot commercial fishing vessel based out of Kodiak, Alaska. The details of how the crewman was injured are unavailable. Crewman injured aboard fishing vessels in almost all cases are entitled to benefits under Federal Maritime Law.  These no fault benefits include the payment of maintenance and cure benefits.  Under the maintenance and cure doctrine a vessel owner must pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses associated with a crewman’s injury.  This includes the duty to pay for medical evacuation from the vessel.

Due to the nature of the commercial fishing industry, injuries aboard vessels are common place. Injuries happen for a variety of reasons, whether it was negligence of the vessel owner or an employee, or unseaworthiness of the vessel itself. Under general maritime law, vessel owners have a duty to provide prompt and adequate medical care to the crew, regardless of how the injury occurred. Sometimes that duty requires halting operations and calling for a coast guard medevac or heading to the nearest port. A breach of these duties constitutes negligence under the Jones Act.

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Alaska’s commercial long line fleet doesn’t know when their season will start for sure. There is no news from the National Marine Fisheries as to when the commercial longline season will start for halibut and black cod. March 11, 2017 was the date agreed to by vote of the International Halibut Commission, however, the start date for the Alaska fisheries requires a publication of a regulation in the Federal Register.

It’s a Presidential Order by President Trump that is causing delays in establishing the fishing opening date. President Trump signed an executive order in January stating that for every new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations must be stricken from the records. The result of the Trump’s Executive order has caused unexpected delays in passing regulations affecting commercial fisheries. Trump also issued an order putting a 60 day freeze on new and pending regulations until they could be reviewed by the head of an agency appointed by the President.

Representatives of the National Marine Fisheries, politicians, and the Department of Commerce are all working with the Trump administration to determine how Trump’s Executive Order impacts the passage of regulations such as the start of Alaska commercial fishing seasons. The impact of President Trump’s broad Executive Order requiring elimination of two regulations for each new regulation did not give consideration to such matters as commercial fishing regulations.

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Two major fishing companies based in Seattle have purchased three Alaska factory trawlers and their quota share from the Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). The sale was announced on Friday. The purchase price was not disclosed. Two Seattle based companies, O’Hara Corporation and Ocean Peace, were involved in the purchase.

A fleet of six Bering Sea fishing vessels was once owned by FCA. One of FCA’s vessels, the Alaska Ranger, sank in 2007. Five crew were tragically killed in the sinking and the remaining 42 crewmen escaped death following a miraculous rescue effort by the Coast Guard. As a result of the Alaska Ranger sinking, lawsuits were filed against FCA for the maritime wrongful deaths and personal injuries of the crew under the Jones Act. Those cases were settled out of Court. Attorney James Beard represented many of the crewmen and their families. In 2016 a second vessel owned by FCA, the Alaska Juris, sank. No deaths occurred in that sinking, but the sinking of the Alaska Juris remains under investigation by the United States Coast Guard.

O’ Hara Corporation has over a hundred year history in the commercial fishing industry. They own 12 scallop boats based in Maine. O’Hara Corporation became involved in the Alaska ground fish trawling industry in the early 1990’s. Prior to their most recent purchase from FCA, O’Hara owed three Alaska factory trawlers, The F/T Constellation, F/T Defender, and F/T Enterprise. A fourth vessel, the F/T Araho is under construction. O’Hara claims that the F/T Araho will be the most technologically advanced catcher processor in the Alaska fleet. O’ Hara has indicated they intend to continue to fish the vessel it purchased from FCA and will make modifications and repairs of the aging vessels that will bring the vessels up to date with modern fishing and safety standards.