The Coast Guard will have a larger law enforcement presence in the bay this year. They will also practice social distancing and other protective measures while conducting vessel examinations.
The U.S. Coast Guard is back in Bristol Bay to perform dockside examinations for the fishing fleet. But it’s taking extra precautions this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Petty Officer Dave Schaffer says they expect to stay on schedule with examinations, with those safety measures in mind.
“All of the members who are traveling to Dillingham and Naknek, King Salmon area we’ve all been going through a quarantine process we don’t have anyone from out of state traveling here,” Schaffer said. “We have our own COVID transmission prevention plan. We are going through isolation and getting tested for COVID. We have to wait for a negative result.”
The Coast Guard will fly with the civil air patrol in Anchorage to avoid traveling on commercial airlines. Once they arrive in Bristol Bay, they plan to provide documentation of negative COVID-19 tests to abide by any additional requirements from processors.
Schaffer says they will take extra steps to ensure social distancing is in place for inspections — especially with crews that have not completed quarantine.
“We may ask those crew members to not be on the boat,” Schaffer said. “In some cases the master of the vessel can get the safety equipment gear and documentation that we need to see and perhaps they can bring it off the back of the boat or to us so we don’t have to go inside the cabin of the boat and potentially be at risk of being exposed to somebody.”
If a member of the Coast Guard happens to test positive for COVID-19 or comes in contact with someone with the disease, the guard’s medical personnel will decide if that person will quarantine in Bristol Bay or return to Anchorage.
Beyond COVID-19 measures, Coast Guard regulations have not changed for the fleet. Schaffer also wants crew members to know that there will be more law enforcement on the water this year.
“This is a very busy fishery up here in the Bristol Bay Area,” he said. “Not to be alarmed, but they can expect to see some Coast Guard smaller patrol boats in the Bristol Bay area where they are not used to seeing those patrol boats. Of course there’s always the possibilities that they could be boarded by the Coast Guard.”
Crew members can visit www.fishsafe.info for additional resources for this year’s examinations. The Coast Guard is conducting exams in Dillingham from June 15 – June 25, in the Bristol Bay Borough through June 26, and in Egegik June 15 – 19.
Fishermen can contact examiners in Dillingham at 907-583-4103, in Egegik at 538-8062 and King Salmon at 717-6270 or 538-9748.