National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


There's a favorite story in my husband's family that his cousin was leaving their grandmother's house with a newly minted driver's license. Grammie said, "Be careful driving home." And the cousin replied, "Don't worry, Grammie. I'm not going to get into an accident!"

We like to giggle at how silly it is for a teenager to believe accidents don't happen unless you allow them to happen. But that attitude is not uncommon among adults, as well. All we can do is hope that when an accident happens, we have the wherewithal to respond quickly, decisively and appropriately.

The deaths of two fishermen in Alaska last week are bringing into focus the importance of safety gear combined with safety training when it comes to accident response.

According to a report from KRBD in Sitka, Wayne Gray and Rex Newlun, residents of Yakutat, were wearing PFDs when their vessel overturned, and one of them had recently completed drill instructor training with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka.

The lone survivor of the incident, Jonathan Pavlik, had also taken the course and was incidentally not wearing a PFD. His survival, however, could well be connected directly with his recent AMSEA training session.

According to Jerry Dzugan, who heads AMSEA and interviews survivors of at-sea accidents, Pavlik did his best to stay out of the cold water and was rescued after a pilot spied him clinging to the bottom-up skiff.

This is where safety training specific to the region you're fishing in becomes critical.

Alaska waters are cold year-round. So AMSEA stresses that PFDs are important but will not alone save you. You must stay out or quickly get out of the water and make sure someone else knows you are in peril.

A man-overboard or abandon-ship situation is often the result of a chain of events. The combination of training and the proper use and stock of safety gear is the best way to ensure that you can perform an effective chain of response to an emergency.

Contact the Coast Guard, AMSEA, or your local vessel owners' association to sign up for safety training.

You can also get a copy of the video "Man Overboard: Prevention and Recovery," produced by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in cooperation with AMSEA and Alaska Sea Grant. Send an email to NIOSH at and refer to the DVD title "Man Overboard Prevention and Recovery" and the NIOSH publication number "2011-126d" in your request.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

Inside the Industry

NMFS has awarded 16 grants totaling more than $2.5 million as part of its Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.

The program supports the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch and aims to to find creative approaches and strategies for reducing bycatch, seabird interactions, and post-release mortality in federally managed fisheries.


Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.

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