According to a study done by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH), the west coast Dungeness crab fishery is the most dangerous fishery in the country which includes the fisheries in Alaska.
In an attempt to reduce fatalities in the dangerous fishery the Coast Guard is conducting what they call Operation Safe Crab. The intent of this pulse operation is to improve safety and reduce fatalities by examining Dungeness crab fishing vessels in every port in Oregon and Washington as crews prepare their vessel prior to season opener.
The Oregon and Washington Dungeness crab fishery normally opens on December 1, 2011, although the season start date could be delayed if the quality of the crab is not yet matured or a strike occurs due to a disagreement in price between the processors and the fishermen.
The Coast Guard plans is to begin conducting dockside safety checks of Dungeness crab vessels at the same time that crews are preparing their vessels prior to the fishery. Safety examiners will be on the docks beginning Tuesday, November 15, 2011, and will continue through Wednesday, Nov. 23.
Coast Guard examiners will be spot-checking primary lifesaving equipment, vessel freeboard, watertight integrity and pot loading practices. Similar at-the-dock checks in previous years, Coast Guard examiners found nearly one-third of lifesaving equipment, such as emergency position indicating radio beacons or life rafts, were installed improperly. In most cases the problems were corrected on the spot.
Serious problems, such as overloading, breech of watertight integrity, missing primary lifesaving equipment or non-functioning emergency position indicating radio beacons; greatly reduce chances of survival during an emergency. Any vessels found with serious problems will be restricted from operating until they are fixed.
As part of Operation Safe Crab, Coast Guard fishing vessel safety personnel will provide basic safety training to operators and crew members of fishing vessels.
The operation’s spot checks, inspections and training began in 2000. Since that year, fatalities during the crab season have been significantly reduced. There was one death related to the Dungeness Crab fishery last year when the F/V Ella Ann overturned in Willapa Bay, WA with two persons on board. Neither person was wearing a life jacket at the time.