One captain’s notes on his vessel’s federal mask mandate exemptions for onboard tasks.

This copy was provided to NF from the owner and operator of an East Coast vessel and may be used as an example of commercial fishing activities that cannot be completed safely while masked and are therefore exemptions to the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Information Bulletin requiring the use of masks on all commercial fishing vessels.

According to the Coast Guard, vessel-specific guidelines on tasks that cannot be accomplished safely with a mask qualify as exempted activities, but blanket policies for all persons at all times will not qualify: “The company guidance should address specific tasks that cannot be accomplished safely while wearing a mask.”

The following is one captain’s documentation.

On-deck tasks which necessitate removing a mask to perform duties due to safety hazards from slime- or water-covered masks causing difficulty breathing.

Also, when the crew needs to communicate with each other or the captain, as the captain is hearing impaired and needs to see the facial expressions and lips of the crew.

1. Shoveling fish into bins.
2. Hauling in net and anytime the net reel is in motion.
3. Manning the net reel while in operation.
4. Stacking boxes of fish.
5. Wash down of the deck.
6. Unloading fish boxes at the dock.
7. Jumping on or off the boat while docking or departing.
8. Tying lines to secure equipment or the boat itself.
9. Any activity where there is communication between the crew and captain as the captain has hearing loss and needs to see facial expressions and lip movement.

Tasks for the captain which necessitate the removal of the mask to operate the boat and hydraulic equipment safely.

1. Any time the captain is at the wheel, as he is wearing glasses and cannot safely drive with the possibility of steaming up his glasses. The environment in the pilothouse is very humid year-round and can be extremely cold, which will cause steam to fog glasses and cause a safety hazard to the crew and boat.

2. Any time the captain is on deck with the possibility of fish slime or water soaking the mask. The captain is diabetic and has difficulty breathing with a wet or slime-covered mask.

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