• New United States Coast Guard Regulations Affecting Commercial Fishing Industry Take Effect October 16, 2012
  • August 29, 2012 | Authors: B. Jason Barlow; John E. Holloway; David H. Sump
  • Law Firm: Troutman Sanders LLP - Norfolk Office
  • Beginning October 16, 2012, all commercial fishing, fish tender and fish processing vessels operating or transiting more than three nautical miles offshore must demonstrate compliance with existing fishing industry vessel regulations by a mandatory safety inspection. Failure to comply can subject the vessel owner to civil penalties, termination of the vessel’s voyage, or other operational controls as ordered by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port. The commercial fishing industry can minimize the potential disruption of this new requirement by insuring each of its vessels have followed one of the three Coast Guard methods for demonstrating compliance in advance of the October implementation deadline.

    The mandatory safety examination requirement is one of several new mandates established by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. The examination requirement applies to all vessels, whether state or federally documented, operating beyond three nautical miles of the United States Coast or the shores of the Great Lakes. Vessels operating anywhere with more than 16 individuals on board and fish tender vessels engaged in the Aleutian Trade are also subject to the examination requirement.

    Demonstrating compliance with the examination requirement can be accomplished one of three ways. The first, and most straight-forward method is to obtain a current Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Decal by submitting to a dockside safety exam. Such an exam can be requested through the local Coast Guard Sector, Marine Safety Unit, or Field Office, as well as online at www.fishsafe.info. Compliance can also be demonstrated with Form CG-5587 signed by a Coast Guard examiner, or by signed letter of compliance from an accepted third-party surveyor attesting that the vessel is compliant with current regulations.

    The dockside exams are offered by the Coast Guard as a service to the commercial fishing industry and are not intended to be a law enforcement or termination measure. Any discrepancies are provided to the owner/operator in the form of a work list. In the event that discrepancies are found, a follow-up exam can be scheduled once all items on the work list are corrected. Vessels found to have all required equipment are issued a Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Decal, which is valid for two years.

    In order to minimize risk of schedule disruptions and non-compliance penalties, vessel owners should obtain the mandatory examination as soon as possible.