National Fisherman

Boats & Gear 

Michael CrowleyThe Boats & Gear blog is overseen by our Boats & Gear editor, Michael Crowley. It explores new construction projects, electronics, gear and equipment for the commercial fishing industry.

Operators in fishing fleets anywhere in the U.S. that operate outside 3 nautical miles should take note of what the Alaska Independent Tenderman's Association has done. Not doing so could cost you a lot of money and long-term aggravation.

First, you have to realize that beginning July 1, 2020, boats 50 feet and over that operate outside 3 nautical miles, were built before July 1, 2013 and are 25 years old by 2020, or are built on or before July 1, 2013 and undergo a substantial change to their dimensions will be subject to construction and maintenance standards in the Alternate Safety Compliance Program.

The program is an attempt to reduce the number of casualties in the fishing fleets. The question has always been what will those rules be? Will a Gulf of Mexico shrimper be held to the same standards as a Bering Sea crabber? For that matter, will an Alaska salmon tender have to adhere to the same construction and maintenance rules as an Alaska freezer trawler?

The latter comparison is what got the Alaska Independent Tenderman's Association's attention. Alaska's freezer trawlers and freezer longliners, the H&G fleets, were subject to something called the Alternate Compliance Safety Agreement, and for a while it looked like other fishing fleets would be held to the same standards.

2014 1023 Boats and Gear tender slideheader3The Alaska Tenderman's Association's risk assessment of its fleet concluded that the tendering fleet is a relatively low-risk group. Alaska Tenderman's Association photo"At the time we were hearing that if you don't do anything, the agreement would be applied to your fleet," says Lisa Terry, association's executive director. "We looked at that agreement, saw what they were required to do and mildly freaked out."

The risks associated with the tendering fleet were not nearly the same as those the H&G boats face. So the tenderman's association elected to be proactive and develop a risk assessment study of their fleet to understand the scope, nature and causes of tender vessel incidents in the 17th Coast Guard district.

The group talked with the local Coast Guard, hired a consultant and gathered data from their own members, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Coast Guard database for the period from 2000 to 2012.

Based on the number of fatalities (three in three separate incidents) and the number of casualties — 21, caused by things such as fires, flooding, collisions, human error and a rogue wave — the conclusion was that the tendering fleet "is a relatively low-risk group," says Terry. "Since we are low risk, we should address our risks and not apply engineering solutions to structural risks we didn't seem to have."

The report is a 42-page document "The Simple Truths of Safety at Sea for the Alaska Tender Fleet: a Study of Tenders in the 17th Coast Guard District" that was presented to a recent meeting of the Coast Guard and the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Advisory Committee in Providence, R.I.

Beyond that, the tenderman's association has begun a voluntary inspection plan with the Coast Guard and is developing a best practices manual for the fleet. Terry says the goal is that when the compliance program takes effect "there won't be a transition. We'll already be doing a lot of what's to be expected."

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Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen. Over the years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health office in Anchorage, Alaska,  has done a lot to reduce the number of man overboard deaths in the fishing fleets by encouraging fishermen to wear PFDs. 

20141014 Salty poster1-IfYouCanSwimPosters, bumper stickers and beverage coasters are among the promotional materials that feature fictional fisherman Angus Iversen in the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety’s Live to be Salty campaign to increase fishermen’s use of PFDs. NIOSH photoTheir efforts have had some successes: The Alaska Scallop Association has a 100 percent PFD policy while on deck for its member boats, and the 8-boat Mariner fleet of Alaska crabbers also has a PFD policy for its crews.

But NIOSH figures there’s still a long way to go so they’ve hired a fisherman to help promote PFD use. He’s Angus Iversen and appears to be a crusty old fart who is quick with a one-liner.

Actually that’s not completely true. He is quick with a one-liner, but Iversen isn’t a real fisherman, he’s a character portrayed by an actor who is the center of NIOSH’s Live to be Salty campaign

You’ll find Iversen’s image on large posters and cardboard cutout displays in gear shops, trade shows and a bar or two. His image and pithy quotes also grace bumper stickers, beverage coasters and apparel stickers.

Fisherman or not, Iversen lets you know who’s boss. “If you can swim the Bering Sea, you’re a better man than me. And you aren’t.” That’s one of his favorites.

Go to the Live to be Salty website and print out posters, bumper stickers and beverage coasters featuring Angus Iversen and his views on fishing safety. And next time you’re at the local gear shop, try on a PFD. As Iversen says, “Sure PFDs get in the way. In the way of you DROWNING.”

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With all the navigation electronics boats are packing around and on a day where conditions were said to be full light, no fog or squalls you would think a collision between two boats, especially when one of them is a 110-foot Coast Guard cutter, could be avoided.

2014fvSeaShepherd sinks 1562264 blogA Sept. 23 collision off Puerto Rico between the Coast Guard cutter Key Largo and the lobster boat Sea Shepherd resulted in the 42-footer's sinking. U.S. Coast Guard photoBut Sept. 23 at 6:38 in the morning, the steel hulled cutter Key Largo and the 42-foot fiberglass lobster boat Sea Shepherd found each other, nine miles East-Northeast of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Winston Ledee, 57, the Sea Shepherd’s owner, and his crewman, Kenneth “Scott” Turbe, 30, saw the cutter coming at them just before it hit, according to one news account, and they jumped ship.

The U.S. Virgin Islands-based Sea Shepherd went to the bottom, leaving lobster traps floating on the sea’s surface. The two men were taken aboard the Key Largo and while neither was injured, both were shook up.

Three days later Ledee told the Virgin Islands Daily News, “Physically, I’m good. Mentally, I’m not. This is a nightmare.”

Two days after the accident, the boat recovery company Sea Tow, with four divers aboard, unsuccessfully tried to locate Ledee’s boat. The water depth in the area is between 600 and 2,000 feet.

According to the Coast Guard, three investigations are examining the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board will try to determine the cause of the accident and make recommendations for avoiding similar outcomes.

The Coast Guard is directing a safety analysis investigation to also identify causal factors leading up to the mishap. It is tasked with identifying organization and systematic changes to reduce such mishaps.

The Coast Guard’s Seventh District Commander is looking at accountability and assessing financial claims against the Coast Guard.

The Seventh District investigation should be the first completed. Results are expected by late November. 

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David Peterson, a boatwright in Trinidad, Calif., has two passions he’s willing to share with readers of this magazine: One is repairing wooden commercial fishing boats, which is how he makes his living, and the other is historical research. The more the research involves older wooden fishing boats, the happier he is. 

20141002 Corregidor blog2014That National Fisherman and its readers benefit from those driving forces is clearly seen in Peterson’s story “A tough act to follow” in our November issue. It’s the story of the Corregidor, a 71-year-old fishing boat that started out in 1943 albacore and mackerel trolling off Southern California. A decade later she was in Eureka, Calif., where she is still fishing.

Peterson’s story is a tale not only of the Corregidor but also of her builder, Ora Wesley Murray, who as a 12-year old in 1893 left his parents in Coffeyville, Kan., to be a cowboy and drive cattle to Colorado.

Then there’s a couple of tough old Corregidor captains, William “Red” Gillette, the boat’s original owner and George Collins who brought the boat to Eureka. Peterson tracked down Gillette’s great granddaughter on and she provided information and the photo that opens the story with the Corregidor tied to a pier in San Pedro, Calif., during WW II.

There’s also the explosion that blew planks off the Corregidor and a boarding sea that flooded the wheelhouse. But enough teasers: Check it out for yourself on page 28.

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Littering probably isn’t the problem it once was in this country. Many towns have recycling centers and there are fines for littering. In Massachusetts, if you toss your cigarette out the window on the Interstate it’s not just a slap on the wrist and a lecture on keeping the roads and neighborhoods clean, it’s a crime.

2014 925 Derelict blue crab trapA derelict blue crab trap found in Chesapeake Bay still contains crab. A recent NOAA study looks at the effect of derelict fishing gear upon targeted and non-targeted species in seven fisheries around the country. NOAA photoOnce you leave land and head out to sea there’s a different kind of littering: it’s not something you see but it has an impact. When fishermen — commercial or recreational — lose or discard traps or nets it becomes what’s called derelict fishing gear. And when that gear still catches fish it’s ghost fishing, affecting targeted and non-targeted species.

In Southeast Alaska it’s estimated there are 3,072 derelict traps holding 6,525 Dungeness crabs at any given time. Those figures are a part of a NOAA ghost fishing study entitled “Out of sight but not out of mind: Harmful effects of derelict traps in selected U.S. coastal waters,” that appeared in the September 2014 issue of Marine Pollution Bulletin

There have been regional studies to try and understand the degree of trap loss but there haven’t been any that look at ghost fishing as a national problem with species specific ecological and environmental impacts. 

NOAA is trying to do just that by, initially, bringing together data from seven fisheries — Dungeness crab in Alaska and Puget Sound, blue crab in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, spiny lobster in Florida, and coral reef fish in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The NOAA study focuses on the number of derelict fishing traps in each fishery and their impact on fishermen, target and non-target species and the habitat.

Various methods were used to locate abandoned or lost fishing gear, including divers, side-scan sonar and cameras mounted on a towed sled, ROV or fixed arm from the boat.

The highest density of abandoned gear is in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay with 28 to 75 derelict fish traps per square kilometer. Puget Sound had 44 per square kilometer, and 32 percent of those traps were ghost fishing, with 21 dead crabs and 49 live crabs taken from them.

The fishing grounds around St. John Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands had the lowest density of lost traps at 5 per square kilometer.

The estimated time traps ghost fish varies from 0.3 years in the Virgin Island to more than 6 years in Alaska. Though as the report notes, “some of the traps surveyed were still ghost fishing, which suggests that our estimates of ghost fishing time are conservative.”

The economic impact of ghost fishing can be considerable. The report’s authors estimate that in Puget Sound each year derelict fish traps kill 178,874 Dungeness crabs worth more than $744,000 or 4.5 percent of the annual average harvest. 

The report concludes with some suggestions for a derelict fishing trap management program. That includes educating fishing communities on the impact of derelict traps, removing derelict traps, low-cost disposal options and new trap designs. To read the Marine Pollution Bulletin article in full, click here.

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If your fishing boat is less than 79 feet then starting Dec. 19, it looks like you will have to start complying with the EPA’s Small Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels Less than 79 Feet. That’s the whole title; the shortened version is sVGP. It’s designed to reduce incidental discharges for boats operating within three miles of the coastline and in the Great Lakes.

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If you started building a boat 50 feet or over after July 1, 2013, its design and construction has to be under the review and periodic monitoring of a classification society, such as American Bureau of Shipping or Det Norske Veritas

That's going to jack the price of the boat up at least $250,000. It's been assumed that one way to avoid the extra cost is to utilize a keel built before the July 1 deadline. Some boatbuilders constructed two or three keels with that in mind, earmarking some of the keels for a particular boat while the others would be sold at a later time.

The 2012 Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act did say that building a keel prior to July 1, 2013, qualifies as having begun building a boat, thus avoiding the classification process and cost. But here's the rub: if the keel was built for your boat you are pretty much in the clear and can wait two, three maybe four years to build the rest of the boat.

But if you've gone into a boatyard after July 1 and bought a keel built before the deadline, thinking it will allow you to escape having to class the boat, you are probably wrong and will still need to have the boat classed. Basically you just bought a bunch of steel or fiberglass, but it's not a keel, at least from the Coast Guard's standpoint.

"When the keel is laid, the common sense interpretation would have to be that the keel is identified with a vessel," says Jack Kemerer, chief of the Fishing Vessel Safety Division in the Coast Guard's Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance

"Just saying we cut steel June 13, 2013, before the deadline, unless you can identify the keel with a particular vessel, it's probably not going to be accepted," Kemerer says. "It should be classed."

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"Go West, young man" was supposedly advice author Horace Greeley gave in the mid-1800s to young men burdened by a lack of opportunity among the cities and farms of the East Coast. These days that expression is being turned around as a few West Coast fishermen are looking to the East, primarily to Maine, when it's time to build a new boat.

20140904 boatbuilding NFoctThat's particularly true for boats in the 40-foot range. We look at one example of this trend in the boatbuilding story that begins on page 28 in the October issue.

When Jerry Brum a Dungeness crab fisherman out of San Mateo, Calif., was thinking about upgrading from his 32-footer, a friend suggested he take a look at a 45-footer owned by another Dungeness crab fisherman. That 45-footer, a fiberglass boat built in 2009 at H&H Marine in Steuben, Maine, got Brum's attention.

Brum liked the looks of the boat and signed up with H&H Marine to build him a slightly smaller version of the Osmond Beal design, at 40' x 14' 10". It's not easy working out the details of having your boat built when the boatyard is 3,000 miles — give or take — away. It takes trust on the part of the fisherman and the boatbuilder.

Brian Robbins, the article's author, leads the reader through the building of the Miss G, until Brum has a boat that offers plenty of working room and carrying capacity, yet enables him to work the Miss G by himself if need be.

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Ask most small-boat fishermen what they think of powering with electric motors instead of a diesel or gasoline engine and, if they are being generous, they will probably tell you, "It's a nice idea but not practical for a working boat."

But there are indications that attitude might be slowly changing. A good example of that changing attitude is the pair of EP-10000 electric motors from Elco Motor Yachts that has replaced a 175-hp Detroit Diesel 6-71 in an 86-year-old, 40-foot dredge tender on the New York canals.

2014 826A pair of Elco Motor Yachts EP-10000 electric motors power a 40-foot dredge tender on the New York canals. Elco Motor Yachts photoThe engines are mounted in tandem and take up less space and weigh less than the Detroit.

New York's Canal Corp. is comparing the performance and maintenance costs of the twin Elcos against the Detroit for maneuvering dredges and dredge barges on the canal.

So far the EP-10000 electric motors — equal to about 100 horsepower each — are delivering 15 percent more horsepower to the shaft than the Detroit and push the dredge tender to its maximum hull speed of about 8 knots.

It costs about $5 to $6 a day to recharge the dredge tender's 36 Absorbed Glass Mat batteries. Now compare that to filling up with diesel fuel after a day on the fishing grounds.

Besides the dredge tender, electric motors from Elco Motor Yachts currently power a 65-passenger water taxi in Florida and a 66-foot passenger-carrying boat that a Canadian museum operates. Elco is also talking with another Canadian outfit about powering a passenger-carrying 60-foot catamaran with an EP-10000 in each hull.

A Maine fisherman is on the list of potential customers interested in using electric motors, as is a logging company with several small tugs. The logging outfit is especially interested in the electric motors' "green" benefits, since the tugs operate in protected waters and will be penalized for any oil spills.

Comments from the dredge tender's crew indicate that there are significant onboard environmental benefits: There's no smoke with the electric motors, it's easy to have a conversation and there's no vibration.

The environmental benefits plus the cost of recharging batteries at the end of the day — versus paying for diesel fuel or gasoline — just might catch the attention of some commercial fishermen.

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The last race of the season on the Maine lobster boat racing circuit once again took place during Portland’s MS Harborfest, which raises money for the Greater New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

2014 0819Whistlin' Dixie leads Four Girls at the Portland races. Jon Johansen photoSixty-one boats showed up for the Aug. 18 races. Besides being an opportunity to contribute to the MS Society, take part in a race in front of a large crowd gathered along Portland’s Eastern Promenade, there was the opportunity for lobstermen to leave Portland with 100 gallons more diesel fuel in their tank.

Global Partners in South Portland donated 1,600 gallons of diesel to be divided among 16 races. At the end of the day, the festival’s organizers held a drawing among the participants in each race; you didn’t have to win a race to get the 100 gallons, you just had to compete.

Several of the faster boats — Foolish Pleasure; Wild, Wild West; and Uncle’s UFO — didn’t show. That left it up to Whistlin’ Dixie, a Holland 40 with a 1,000-hp Cat; Thunderbolt, a South Shore 30 with a 496 Chevy — horsepower unknown; and Mojo Inc., a Holland 32 with a 560-hp FPT diesel to provide most of the high-speed entertainment.

Unfortunately for Thunderbolt, she blew her transmission, so at the end of the day, Whistlin’ Dixie came out on top at about 45 mph with Mojo Inc. at number two.

The Black Diamond, a Holland 32 owned by Islesboro’s Randy Durkee had a unique distinction among the boats in Portland; Durkee’s Black Diamond was the only boat to show up at all nine of the lobster boat races, from Portland to Moosabec Reach.

The Black Diamond, with a 454 Chevy, usually wins her races in Class C (376 to 525 cubic inches, 24 feet and over) running in the low-30-mph range.

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Page 6 of 12

Inside the Industry

NOAA recently published a proposed rule that would implement a traceability plan to help combat IUU fishing. The program would seek to trace the origins of imported seafood by setting up reporting and filing procedures for products entering the U.S.

The traceability program would collect data on harvest, landing, and chain of custody of fish and fish products that have been identified as particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and fraud.


The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

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