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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Coast Guard boarding officers and their Alaska Wildlife Trooper counterparts were on hand June 21–29 in the Bristol Bay region for the annual salmon fishery openers.
The high concentration of vessels operating in a small area can lead to incidents on the water due to human error. The law enforcement presence provided by the Coast Guard and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers serves to ensure compliance with navigation rules, fishery guidelines and safety regulations by all fishery participants. It also provides an immediate on scene search and rescue capability should the need arise.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasted a total sockeye salmon run of 38.5 million fish with a commercial harvest of 31.76 million. The Coast Guard anticipated a fleet participation of up to 1,100 vessels.
“It’s important for us to be there to level the playing field at such a significant seasonal opener,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Greene, a boarding officer at Sector Anchorage and the lead boarding officer on scene in Bristol Bay. “We want everyone to play by the same rules and also make sure they’re safe out there. This has a positive impact on both the industry and the marine resources that need to be regulated.”
During the four day operation, Coast Guardsmen and the troopers spent 71 hours underway, contacted 103 vessels with commercial fishing vessel decals and conducted 19 boardings. Coast Guard boarding officers assisted the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in the seizure of illegal catch, rendered first aid to a drowning victim and facilitated the towing of a disabled vessel back to port.
“Overall the fishing fleet appreciates our presence there,” said Greene. “They know we’re there to facilitate their success and make sure no one gets hurt. It’s a good day when a fisherman shakes my hand after writing him a citation. I know I’ve done my job well, because he understands I’m there for his welfare.”