Coast Guard Stresses Commercial Fishing Safety - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/27/04

Coast Guard Stresses Commercial Fishing Safety

Making a living on a commercial fishing boat is risky business.

In fact, statistics show that only timber cutters have a more dangerous job than fishermen. Commercial fishing is the second most deadly job in America.

It's also a fact that many accidents at sea can be prevented.

The U-S Coast Guard is urging fishermen to get serious about safety. The Coast Guard wants commercial fishermen to be familiar with safety equipment and regulations. That's why the group hosted a commercial fishing safety fair at the Pass Christian harbor Tuesday.

The main message involves preparation and prevention.

WLOX News accompanied a Coast Guard safety inspection team as they prepared to board the "Brandi Renae".

"This is a very detailed examination where all the safety equipment on a boat is checked. There's administrative things. There's safety equipment things. There's navigational rules of the road things that are going to be checked," said Paul Barnard with the U.S. Coast Guard.

"How many people do you have aboard with you captain?," asked the safety inspector, as he began filling out the checklist.

"Your fire extinguisher, your flares and your life jackets," he said, as he checked off the required equipment.

The safety equipment checks out, but the team also encourages the captain to try on his life jacket. In an emergency, it's critical to already be familiar with such gear.

"Let's go ahead and give you an example and see if you can put it on. Because in the heat of the moment, you're going to need to have this," said the chief inspector.

Back on the dock, Coast Guard team members demonstrated the danger control simulator. It's designed to create the kind of conditions fishermen might face when making emergency repairs.

The device sprays out water to simulate a broken pipe or a cracked hull.

"Until you've done this, you can't appreciate how difficult it would be to do that out on the water," Barnard explained.

Should emergency repairs fail, another common safety device could become a life saver. Flares are an essential safety tool that the Coast Guard relies on to locate boaters in distress.

Back aboard the Brandi Renae, the inspection team was nearly finished.

"You need brackets for your fire extinguisher. And you need to tighten your shaft pack down in the engine room," said inspector, Dave Johnson.

"Not too bad a shape captain. Just a few things to fix and I think you can do that pretty quickly," said inspector Scott Labak.

Along with reducing the likelihood of accidents, commercial fishermen also have some financial incentive for following safety regulations. Violations can cost from $200 to $10,000.

By Steve Phillips

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