>Commandant Speaks About Commerical Fishing Safety

>Commandant of the Coast Guard, ADM Thad Allen, visited Cape May, NJ, on Friday and spoke with local reporters about the Coast Guard’s commitment to commercial fishing vessel safety and the need to improve safety standards.

Commercial fishing continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in America, accounting for 27% of the five-year average number of commercial mariner deaths and injuries. The industry faces severe economic pressures – depleted stocks and limits on fishing, increasing fuel and other costs, and prices for products that have stagnated since at least 2000. This fosters an attitude of greater risk tolerance that can lead to decreased concerns about training, safety equipment, and vessel and equipment maintenance. Although there is no legal authority for mandatory examination of commercial fishing vessels, the Coast Guard has a clear mandate to minimize associated marine deaths and injuries.

Cape May and the neighboring area is home to a fishing fleet that during 2008 landed 82.9 million pounds of fish with an estimated value of 73.7 million dollars. The State of New Jersey is home to over 250 scallop and clam dredging vessels that operate far offshore under adverse weather conditions, and when casualties happen the consequences can be severe.

The most recent major casualty was the sinking of the F/V LADY MARY off the coast of New Jersey on March 24, 2009 with the loss of six of the seven crewmembers. The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are working together on a Marine Board of Investigation to determine why the vessel sank and what steps the Coast Guard can take to prevent future tragedies.

Information on the Coast Guard’s fishing vessel safety programs is available on CG Homeport under Commerial Fishing Vessels and also at http://www.fishsafe.info/.