A program that the U.S. Coast Guard credits with reducing fatalities in the dangerous Dungeness crab fishery starts today, but a local fisherman says that timing couldn't be worse.
And, Charleston fisherman Jeff Reeves argues that, because life rafts are being repacked at this time of years, boats are destined to fail their inspections. The schedule doesn't take into account this year's two-week delay of the start of crab season.
Dan Hardin, the Coast Guard's fishing vessel safety coordinator for this area, said the bad timing was unavoidable because of the need to schedule 30 people to do the inspections around the Northwest. He said the Coast Guard didn't find out until Monday that the season won't open till Dec. 15.
But he said boats whose life rafts are being packed will be reinspected in time for the season opening.
Coast Guard safety examiners will be on the docks now through Nov. 23. They'll spot-check primary lifesaving equipment, vessel freeboard, watertight integrity and pot-loading practices.
Vessels found with serious problems will be restricted from operating until they are fixed.
If a vessel isn't inspected, it likely will be boarded during the season.
But an inspection won't save a vessel from being boarded, because the Coast Guard boards boats to check for compliance with fisheries regulations.
In previous years, Coast Guard examiners dockside found nearly one-third of lifesaving equipment, such as emergency position indicating radio beacons or life rafts, were installed improperly. In most cases the problems were corrected on the spot.
Reeves said that assessment doesn't accurately portray fishermen's readiness for the sea, because the inspection comes at a time when fishermen send their life rafts back to the factory for repacking.
'It's another disconnect with industry," he said.
Fishery managers in Oregon, Washington and California delayed the opening of crab season until at least Dec. 15 to give the crab time to fill up with meat. Regulations allow it to be delayed as late as Jan. 1.