Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) on Sept. 21 introduced the Bryson Fitch Fisherman Protection Act, legislation to honor missing crab fisherman Bryson Fitch and also increase safety measures aboard fishing vessels.
The proposed legislation would create a tax credit, worth 50% of costs incurred, for operators and individuals that purchase personal locator beacons (PLBs).
Commercial operators qualify if there are PLBs for every individual on board. Individuals qualify if they work aboard a commercial vessel that does not have PLBs for every person on board and opt to buy one on their own.
A PLB is a distress beacon that will transmit a survivor’s location on or in the water to a satellite-aided tracking system during an emergency. Its designed to be carried in a person’s life vest and is manually activated when the wearer is in distress.
PLBs continuously update a survivor’s location anywhere in the world, making it quicker to locate an individual in the water during an emergency.
“Fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and it’s our responsibility to make sure these hard-working men and women are protected,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in a statement announcing the legislation. “This bill will help ensure more fishermen are equipped with the personal safety equipment they need to be located during an emergency.”
The legislation is named after Fitch, of Pacific County, Wash., who in February was board the crab-fishing vessel Ethel May when it sank near the entrance of Willapa Bay. Two crewmen were rescued, but Fitch could not be found. He was not equipped with a PLB.
“I’m continuing to keep Bryson, his loved ones and the fishing community in my prayers, and I hope we can honor his legacy by making fishermen safer,” Gluesenkamp Perez said.
Currently, the Coast Guard recommends, but does not require, all vessels to provide crew with PLBs.
A one-page summary of the bill is available at https://tinyurl.com/ywkm4r8n.