Alaska crews deploy to safeguard fishing fleet

Predeployed helicopter

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter predeployed to St. Paul Island from Air Station Kodiak is readied for a flight. While the Opilio crab season has been open since fall, many boats fish in January due in part to shore side processors schedules and the fall push for Bering Sea Red King crab. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Solomon.

As harsh winter weather causes Alaskans to pack up their boats until spring, the Alaskan crab and groundfish fleets brave fierce storms and icy temperatures in search of the big catch. As the fishing fleet gets underway, they can take comfort in the knowledge that Coast Guard search and rescue teams will be protecting them every step of the way.

MST2 Mayrer checks extinguisher

Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Mayrer, a marine science technician with Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak, checks the expiration date on a fire extinguisher on a fishing vessel. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

Two rescue helicopters from Air Station Kodiak have been forward deployed to remote St. Paul Island, one of four volcanic islands located in the Bering Sea between the United States and Russia. With aircrews standing by on this 40-square-mile island, more than 270 miles from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, they are able to greatly reduce the response distance to a possible emergency during the winter fishing season.

“Winter in the Bering Sea is a combination of the harshest weather and most activity,” said Capt. Bark Lloyd, chief of response for the 17th Coast Guard District, “In the case of an emergency, critical response hours are significantly reduced by forward deploying aircraft to St. Paul.”

In addition to the aircrews, the fishing fleet will be protected by a Coast Guard cutter carrying a rescue helicopter of its own.

Forward deployment of these assets is the culmination of months of preparation by Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak and Unalaska. These marine safety detachments conducted safety training with the crab fleets as well as voluntary fishing vessel safety exams.

Safety inspection

The expiration of safety equipment, EPIRB batteries and life raft hydrostatic releases are the most common discrepancies found during safety checks. All deficiencies are corrected prior to a vessel getting underway. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

“The Coast Guard continues to vigorously stress the importance of exercising good maritime practices and compliance with safety standards,” said Capt. Adam Shaw, chief of prevention for the 17th Coast Guard District. “The dockside safety examination services offered to commercial fishing vessel owners and operators are especially relevant given our extreme maritime environment and geographic remoteness.”

Despite the best efforts of the Coast Guard, the cooperation of local partners and fishing fleet itself is critical to mission success. To strengthen vital safety and enforcement partnerships in Alaska, the Coast Guard hosts bi-weekly teleconferences with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

With crab pots safely stacked on deck and the fleet out in droves, Coast Guard crews standby ready to protect and look after Alaska’s fishing fleet.

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10 Responses

  1. Heikki Laukkanen says:

    Great picture by Petty Officer Solomon of the helicopter with that beautiful northern sky.

  2. Dekos911 says:

    Any pictures from anyone on the Alex Haley? Thanks

  3. Drakemclaurin says:

    weird

  4. Steve milligan says:

    I will be there around the 15th to work at the St Paul Health Center as a Physician Assistant.
    I hope to visit the station.
    I will be taking care of any patients they bring back to St Paul.
    I can not wait to get out there.
    Steve Milligan PA-C HMCS USN Retired

  5. 2js says:

    anyone know what the the Coast Guard Station is called in Winchester Bay Oregon?
    do they have a name besides that?

  6. LTJG S. M. Young says:

    2js,

    The station in Winchester Bay is known as Coast Guard Station Umpqua River. You can find out more information about the station and it’s history here.

    Very Respectfully,
    LTJG S. M. Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs

  7. Shirley says:

    The sheer size of the response area and the operational challenges of the CG in the Bering Sea are simply staggering when you think about it. Yet, they make it work no matter what. They are as dependable as the sun rising in the east every morning. We love the Coast Guard in Dutch Harbor, and pray for their safety just as we do the fishermen.

  8. Nina says:

    Hi!
    Is this a permanent installation? Or is the CG only on St. Paul during crab season? Is there any more info?
    thanks!
    Nina

  9. LT Stephanie Young says:

    Nina,

    Thanks for commenting! I reached out to crews in Alaska and they provided some great information.

    The forward operating location mentioned in the article exists to shorten the response time to incidents that may occur in the different region during periods of increased fishing or tourist activity.

    Air Station Kodiak staffs a detachment, also called a forward operating location, in St. Paul from January 15 through April 1. The crews use a civilian hangar and stay at the old Loran Station.
    The Loran station is a permanent structure which has a year-round caretaker now that the Loran mission has been concluded.

    From October through December the crews also maintain an FOL out of Cold Bay where they partner with stay Alaska State Troopers to use their facility.

    From May through September we also maintain an FOL in Cordova. Cordova has a Coast Guard aviation support facility that is staffed year-round by Coast Guard active duty personnel. We own and maintain the lodging and hangar space.

    All three FOLs are staffed with one to two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and Air Station Kodiak rotates crews from Kodiak aboard HC-130s every two weeks.

    I hope the information helps and please feel free to reach out anytime.

    Very Respectfully,
    Lt. Stephanie Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs

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