Homer Alaska - Seawatch

Story last updated at 12:05 PM on Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fishing boats now required to have safety exam, decal

Last week marked the beginning of a new era in Coast Guard safety regulations, with all commercial fishing, tender and processing vessels operating or transiting more than three miles from shore being required to have a dockside exam and display the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Decal generated by that exam.

The stickers are good for two years.

While boats can be sent back to port for not having the decal, if all their safety equipment is in order, it is more likely that they would be allowed to continue fishing with instructions to get a dockside exam and decal within 30 days, according to Lt. Sarah Geoffrion, supervisor for the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Homer.

While at some point there will be fines associated with not having proper safety equipment, it is as yet unclear whether there will be a fine for not having a decal.

"We're still working out the finer details," Geoffrion said. "As of right now, it's going to be a 'sent back to the beach' type scenario.

"We're pretty much learning something new (about the regulations) every day, just like everybody else is, so we're trying to get the word out as best we can about the issues that we do know about."

At this point, she said, that means making sure everyone knows that the dockside exam is required, not just voluntary as in the past, and making sure her office is available to carry them out.

The new requirement is a result of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, which resulted in several significant new regulations, few of which have been implemented.

Two of those additional regulations include mandatory safety training for vessel captains and a mandatory logbook detailing when and how on-board safety drills are conducted.

Geoffrion said that the safety training is likely to be very similar to the safety drill instructor courses now being offered by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, and would be required every five years.

She said there has not been a deadline established for implementation of either the training or logbook requirements.

AMSEA will be holding a drill instructor training class in Homer Oct. 27. More information can be found at http://amsea.org/index.html, with registration at http://www.amsea.org/forms/drills_registration.html.

The Coast Guard has developed a very useful checklist generator that allows the user to enter vessel information and find out what their requirements are for safety equipment, which helps prepare for the dockside exam. It can be found at http://www.fishsafe.info/.

To schedule a dockside exam in Homer, call the local Marine Safety office at 235-3292.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced another huge quota for the 2013 Togiak herring season, coming in at an incredible 30,056 tons, far eclipsing the 2012 allocation of 21,622 tons.

Of that, 70 percent is allocated to the seine fleet, and 30 percent to gillnetters.

However, it is unlikely that the fleet will even come close to that number, as for several years the fleet has essentially been allowed to fish for days on end as their markets allow. There were 17,226 tons taken in 2012.

Fishermen who take advantage of the information provided by the marine weather buoy at Anchor Point are being asked to take a survey that will help determine the future of the buoy.

The buoy, located 7 miles off Anchor Point, transmits wave height and direction, wave periods and water temperature.

It is owned by the Alaska Ocean Observing System, or AOOS, and is maintained with the help of several partners, including the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, the City of Homer and NOAA's Kasitsna Bay Lab.

It has broken loose twice since it was deployed a year and a half ago, and required capture, maintenance and redeployment.

The survey is an effort to better understand the value of the buoy to the community, and get input for re-siting the buoy to a location that is safer while still providing useful data.

One of those possible sites is slightly south and closer to shore than the current position, the other site is off of Bluff Point.

Additionally, AOOS is looking for interested mariners to help monitor the buoy for large debris fields, other boaters tying up to the buoy, or other problems. Any of these may be contributing to the buoy going adrift and loss of important information to the boating community.

More information and the survey can be found at http://www.aoos.org/cook-inlet-wave-buoy-survey/.

A rogue geoengineering experiment 200 miles off of northern British Columbia that was designed to help sequester carbon and possibly boost salmon survival has alarmed environmentalists and undoubtedly broken international laws.

Entrepreneur Russ George accepted $1 million from a Haida tribe on the Haida Gwaii Islands to sprinkle 100 tons of iron sulphate in the ocean, apparently creating a plankton bloom as large as 6,000 square miles, according to satellite images.

The Canadian National Research Council provided additional funding, but said they "were not made aware" of plans for ocean fertilization. George disputes that assertion.

The experiment was intended as a money maker, ostensibly allowing the tribe to sell carbon offsets to companies that need them, as the plankton absorbs the carbon and falls to the sea floor when it dies.

Canada's environment ministry says it is investigating the experiment, which was carried out with no government or scientific oversight.

The Council of the Haida Nation, which represents all Haida, issued a statement condemning George.

"The consequences of tampering with nature at this scale are not predictable and pose unacceptable risks to the marine environment," it read. "Our people along with the rest of humanity depend on the oceans and cannot leave the fate of the oceans to the whim of the few."

Cristy Fry has commercial fished in Homer since 1978. She also designs and builds gear for the industry. She currently longlines for halibut and gillnets salmon in upper Cook Inlet aboard the F/V Realist. She can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.