Coast Guard wants your feedback

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (07/08/00)
By Ray Pendleton

Water Ways readers can surely be forgiven if they immediately think of longliners when I mention commercial fishermen.

After the recent judicial ruling that closed a major segment of the State's fishery to longline boats operating out of Hawai`i, as well as requiring National Marine Fisheries Service observers aboard every boat, the longliners have pretty much had the headlines to themselves.

But in reality, commercial fishing in Hawai`i is a business conducted by almost anyone who catches fish.

Consider the owner of a charter fishing vessel, commonly known as a "six-pack" boat because its legal limit for passengers is six. If a large ahi is caught during a charter, it is sure to be sold at the fish market and the boat then falls under Coast Guard rules regarding commercial fishing.

The same situation applies to recreational anglers lucky enough to boat even one fish with commercial value. If they sell their catch, they also must comply with the Coast Guard's rules.

There isn't the same extension from recreational fishing to commercial fishing in most other states primarily because their commercial fishing licenses are considerably more costly and/or the number of fish caught of commercial value are so few.

Because of Hawaii's unusually high number of recreational anglers who may occasionally sell their catches, Hawaii Ocean Safety Team's Bill Mossman would like to alert Water Ways readers of an upcoming, not-to-be-missed Coast Guard meeting.

On July 13, at 5 p.m., the Coast Guard will be conducting a "Listening Session" regarding its federal action plan to tighten the safety regulations for commercial fishing vessels. It will be held at its Club 14 at the Coast Guard Base on Sand Island.

The purpose of the session will be to present and to receive feedback on its action plan draft, which was developed in response to what the Coast Guard calls, "an alarming number of deaths recently experienced by the commercial fishing industry."

The Coast Guard believes this new action plan has the greatest potential for reducing loss of life and property.

In developing its plan, the Coast Guard has asked the industry the following:
What are the most critical safety issues facing the fishermen of this area?

What level of training should be considered for a certification program, and who should be certified?

How can the Coast Guard improve its communications with the industry?

How can the industry improve its safety record without regulatory changes?

Some of the most significant changes the Coast Guard recommends for the commercial fishing regulations are:
Making the present voluntary vessel examinations and training programs mandatory.

Implementing a captain/crew certification program based on training requirements.

Applying vessel "stability" and "watertight integrity" standards to all vessels.

As most anglers in Hawai`i can appreciate, the implementation of these rules could have quite an effect on more than just longliners and other full-time commercial fishermen.

If interested persons cannot attend this meeting, more information can be found on the Internet or call Mossman at 808-254-2267.

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