The 61-foot longliner Princess Hawaii set out early Sunday morning and was reported to be fishing 400 miles north of Hilo — within 20 miles of her sistership Commander — when she sank.
The Coast Guard’s Honolulu coordination center received an EPIRB alert at 11:23 Sunday morning and confirmed with shore-based contacts that the alert was most likely an emergency.
A Coast Guard air crew launched at 3 p.m. and sighted a flare and a life raft in the vicinity of the EPIRB signal. The air crew reported the Princess Hawaii was “mostly submerged with only the stern above the waterline,” according to the Coast Guard report.
The Coast Guard air crew dropped a radio to the life raft and helped establish communication with the Commander.
The longliner, owned and operated by Honolulu-based Holly Fishery, was reportedly fishing with her captain, six crew and a NOAA observer. All eight were reported to be located in the life raft and were picked up by the crew of the Commander around 11 p.m.
the crew was reported to be in good condition and was expected to arrive back in Honolulu later this week. Most of Hawaii’s longline fleet uses foreign crews with special contracts instead of U.S. work visas. The workers cannot legally enter the United States, so they are required to stay aboard their assigned fishing boats — often a year or two at a time — without setting foot in landing ports.
"The Princess Hawaii was boarded by our cutter Oliver Berry this past February with no safety violations," said, Lt. Tim Lae, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center command duty officer.
"They used all their survival equipment correctly. Being prepared and in compliance with the law properly registering their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon and necessary safety equipment saved these people’s lives and made it possible for rescue crews to find them."
The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the sinking and warns that the vessel may present a hazard to navigation. All mariners in the area should keep a lookout to avoid collision.