National Fisherman

Gearing up for an emergency

From U.S. Coast Guard reports

You shouldn't depend on a good Samaritan boat being nearby, but it's always a welcome sight in an emergency.

Early on a January day, on the 12th day of a fishing trip, a 70-foot wooden-hulled shrimper was in the Gulf of Mexico, fishing out of Fort Meyers, Fla. Its veteran owner/operator, and his two new deckhands were enjoying calm weather with a visibility of two miles and a temperature of 65 degrees. The deckhands hadn't worked on a vessel of this size.

At approximately 3:30 a.m. the skipper felt the vessel hit what he described as a submerged object. Soon after, he noticed his boat was taking on water. The skipper discovered the vessel's tail shaft had snapped inside the shaft log. He engaged his pumps, which seemed to be keeping up with the flooding. At approximately 4 a.m., the skipper alerted the Coast Guard of his situation. He also called another fishing vessel he knew was nearby and asked for a tow.

At about 5:30 a.m., the other fishing vessel arrived to tow the shrimper. But the relatively calm weather worsened after a few hours of towing. Waves were reaching 6 to 7 feet, and 20-knot winds blew out of the northwest. The battering caused the tail end of the shrimper's shaft and the prop to break loose. With water coming in faster now, and the shrimper's deckhands beginning to panic, the two fishing vessels pulled alongside each other. The deckhands were transferred onto the other vessel and two more portable pumps were put on the shrimper to battle the increased rate of flooding. Within about an hour, the shrimper lost power, and the skippers of both vessels decided to try towing the shrimper to calmer water.

At about 4:25 p.m., it was apparent the shrimper was sinking. With the shrimper's skipper now on the other vessel, the tow was cut. Within five minutes, the shrimper sank. The next morning the shrimp boat crew was delivered back to its home port; no one on either vessel sustained any injuries.

Lessons learned

Good Samaritan boats aren't always nearby. One way to be prepared is to make sure you have all required safety gear.

You can get a good start by focusing on what many in the industry refer to as the Big Five: survival craft, PFDs/immersion suits, distress signals, EPIRBs and fire extinguishers.

If you don't know exactly what equipment you're supposed to have, how many of each type or when you're supposed to inspect and test the equipment on your vessel, then contact your local Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator for a voluntary dockside exam. The purpose of the exam is to check that the vessel is in compliance with all requirements, promote vessel safety within the fishing fleet, and to educate fishermen about specific safety requirements. For more information visit and look under Regional Contacts for the safety coordinator nearest you. Or call your local Coast Guard unit. Be prepared; fish safe!

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15

In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.

National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15

In this episode:

March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received

Inside the Industry

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has scheduled a series of scoping hearings to gather public input for a proposed action to protect unmanaged forage species.

The proposed action would consider a prohibition on the development of new, or expansion of existing, directed fisheries on unmanaged forage species in the Mid-Atlantic until adequate scientific information is available to promote ecosystem sustainability.


The National Marine Educators Association has partnered with NOAA this year to offer all NMEA 2015 conference attendees an educational session on how free NOAA data can add functionality to navigation systems and maritime apps.

Session topics include nautical charts, tides and currents, seafloor data, buoy networking and weather, among others.

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