Northwest Dungeness boats have loosed their lines at long last. The traditional opener on Dec. 1 has been moot for several years running. This year ran the gamut for delays. First they waited for tests to show full shells, then an all-clear on domoic acid testing, and finally for a price agreement and a decent weather window. State managers reopened northern California and most of Oregon and Washington on Jan. 15. The Oregon and Washington fleets remained tied up on price negotiations for another week, and southern Oregon cleared domoic tests at the end of the month.
Around 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, the crew of the Gerry B was about 8 miles south of the Humboldt jetties off Eureka, Calif., when their engine room was flooded, cutting off power for communications. The boat was continuing to take on water, and the crew was donning safety gear to abandon ship. A good Samaritan vessel called in a mayday to the Coast Guard.
A Coast Guard helicopter helped guide a rescue boat to the Gerry B through a bank of fog. The rescue boat’s crew delivered a dewatering pump to control the flooding and escorted the fishing boat to Woodley Island Marina in Eureka.
“Thanks to the help of a good Samaritan, our crews were able to assist these fishermen by air and by sea,” said Capt. Greg Fuller, commander for Sector Humboldt Bay. “Other boaters can be the eyes and ears of the Coast Guard, so it’s great to see the fishing community look out for each other.”
Early the next morning, two crew members were washed overboard while running gear on the 47-foot Chief Joseph. The captain was able to pull one of them back onboard with no reported injuries.
The Coast Guard searched for Bryan Moore for 11 hours, covering almost 700 square miles, before calling off their search. The community has shared an outpouring of sympathy for Moore’s family and friends. He was a young, hard-working and well-liked member of the Northwest coast fishing community.
“It is with a heavy heart the Coast Guard makes the decision to suspend a search-and-rescue case,” Fuller said. “We extend our deepest condolences to this man’s loved ones and the entire fishing community.”
The safety community has responded by reminding fishermen to wear fishing-friendly PFDs on deck. The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association posted a blog on Feb. 5 citing NIOSH studies on the survival rates of falls overboard.
According to NIOSH, 182 fishermen died after falling overboard between 2000 and 2011. None of them was wearing a PFD. This study prompted NIOSH to work with fishermen to assess PFDs that don’t impede deck work. The report, PFDs That Work, includes types, models, brands and required maintenance for deckwork-friendly PFDs.
My heart goes out to Bryan Moore’s family and friends. His mother, siblings and fellow crew will need the support of their community to heal from this tragic loss of a young man whose life stretched before him and whose passion and drive took him out to sea.