Alaska’s U.S. senators are working to revise the masking requirement for all persons aboard commercial fishing vessels.

A Coast Guard a Marine Safety Information Bulletin issued on March 22 states its authority to restrict vessel access to ports and operations if they fail to follow the rules as defined by the Centers for Disease Control.

“Vessels that have not implemented the mask requirement may be issued a Captain of the Port order directing the vessel’s movement and operations; repeated failure to impose the mask mandate could result in civil and/or criminal enforcement action,” the bulletin says, as reported by NF.

The CDC mask requirement has been interpreted by the Coast Guard to apply to “all forms of commercial maritime vessels,” including cargo ships, fishing vessels, research vessels and self-propelled barges.” It requires “all travelers” to wear a mask, including those who have been vaccinated.

“Senator [Lisa] Murkowski and I have been pressing this relentlessly on a call with the Coast Guard commandant, a call with the White House guy who's supposedly in charge of all the CDC issues. We had a meeting with the head of the CDC. We are trying to explain to them how, no offense, but just how stupid this is and how uninformed it is,” Sen. Dan Sullivan said last week at a ComFish forum. “And it could be a safety issue, not with regard to covid, but with having to wear masks when you’re out on the deck of a ship in 30-foot waves trying to bring in gear or pots. So, we're going to continue to work on that one.”

Masking exemptions: Sample onboard documentation

“The CDC has planted their heels on this one as I understand it,” echoed Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Certainly, from a realistic standpoint, it makes no sense. So we’re on the front side of that conversation.”

Vincent-Lang added that he is speaking with members of other coastal states and hopes to garner support to overturn the mask requirement.

“I think to the extent that we can form some kind of a unified position on this issue across more states, we stand a better chance of changing it. Because this is a CDC guidance which can be changed depending upon how they get policy direction from the White House. And if they hear from other coastal states in addition to Alaska, they'll probably be more inclined to do it,” he said.

Feedback on the masking rule can be given at [email protected].

Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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