New Coast Guard inspections on tap for commercial fishermen

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A new federal law that goes into effect Oct. 16 could help commercial fishermen in their dangerous environment, according to Coast Guard officials.

But the new rules are not earning any kudos from fishermen, who say they are already burdened by fish-catch regulations, according to the Bangor Daily News in Maine.

For the first time, commercial fishing vessels that operate three or more miles from the coast will be required to undergo a dockside Coast Guard inspection. Changes to the standards those boats have to meet in the inspection are being developed for implementation in the coming years.

Offshore fishing is the most dangerous job in the nation, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, and nowhere is it more dangerous than in the Northeast.

A recent report by Boston public radio station WBUR, National Public Radio and the Center for Public Integrity found that from 2000 to 2009 those working in the groundfish fishery off New England and New York were 37 times more likely to die on the job than a police officer.

Currently, fishing boats are inspected at random, such as when a Coast Guard vessel stops the boat at sea. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 stipulated that any commercial fishing vessel — whether in the groundfish, lobster, gill net or scallop industry — that operates three or more miles from shore must be inspected every two years.

“Obviously, we’re not going to be able to inspect every boat before Oct. 16,” Plowman told the paper, although the Coast Guard plans to hire a third inspector to work from Rockland, Maine, and Coast Guard officers and the Coast Guard Auxiliary are expected to help out.

Under current federal law, fishing vessels must carry an emergency position-indicating radio, known as EPIRB; a lifeboat or life float; a flare kit; life jackets or immersion suits; a ring buoy; a fire extinguisher; a sound-producing device and running lights. The at-sea inspections by the Coast Guard for such equipment, described as “voluntary,” will now become mandatory.

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