The United States Coast Guard completed their investigation into the loss of the commercial fishing vessel Mary B II on the Yaquina Bay Bar near Newport, Oregon, on January 8, 2019. After convening with the Board of Investigation, the Coast Guard announced that the capsizing was primarily the owner/ operator’s fault.

Captain Stephan Biernacki, 50, was from Barnegat Township, N.J., and was crossing the Bay Bar when the vessel capsized, causing the loss of the boat and its entire crew. He had fished on the east coast off from New Jersey but was new to Dungeness fishing in Oregon. The Coast Guard had reported that the Mary B II had faced seas of 14 to 16 feet, with some waves breaking as tall as 20 feet. They had tried to direct the crew as they noticed them approaching the bar, but it had been too late, and the conditions were not forgiving.

The vessel was loaded with crab at the time and had broken in two at the waterline. After further investigation, the former owner of the 42-foot boat testified that Biernacki didn’t seem to understand the local bars and crossings and didn’t seem interested in talking about them.

After a five-year investigation, the Coast Guard announced that the capsizing was primarily Biernacki’s fault. He had registered 0.17 mg per liter of amphetamine and 0.50 mg per liter of meth. Leaving the captain impaired and inexperienced with the bay’s conditions.

The Coast Guard followed the investigation's outcome with recommendations for stricter regulations for fishing boat captains, including a national advisory committee on fishing vessel safety to consider rules mandating licensing and drug and alcohol testing, according to The Chronicle.

The advisory committee, which reported to the secretary of Homeland Security, rejected the recommendation for the additional oversight, citing the potential cost to the fishing industry in the state, which brought in about $231 million in revenue in Oregon in 2022.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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