CDC Ends Mask Requirement Aboard Maritime Vessels as Salmon Harvest Begins

A health and safety requirement for masking on board in the maritime transportation system to prevent the spread of the global pandemic of novel coronavirus has ended.

The rule was lifted this week by U.S. Coast Guard officials, who said mask wear in outdoor areas of maritime transportation conveyances and hubs is no longer required. The change reflected updated enforcement of the mask requirement for commercial vessels and maritime transportation hubs.

While the CDC is no longer requiring mask wear in outdoor areas, masks may still be required in outdoor areas at the discretion of operators of conveyances and transportation hubs. Coast Guard officials said the updated guidelines do not supersede any federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations that still require use of masks in outdoor areas of conveyances and while outdoors on transportation hubs.

Meanwhile, as an increasing number of fishermen and women prepare to head for the grounds, the first of the season weekly Alaska Harvest Update produced by McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute reports that the salmon harvest to date is 1.2 million fish.

That’s about half of what had been caught at this point in 2020, says Dan Lesh, a fisheries consultant for McKinley Research. Still, Lesh says, it is too soon to draw any conclusions about the season, as typically less than 2% of the state’s salmon harvest happens through week 24.

Available data includes early season openers in Area M (the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region) and Prince William Sound. Prince William Sound harvests are above 2020 at this point, but slow by historical standards, Lesh said.

Sockeyes, as usual, have been the bulk of the harvested species at this point. Area M has seen harvests of 339,000 sockeyes, a big jump over 2020 and above long-term averages. Meanwhile, the humpy harvest of 414,000 in Area M is more than six times less than the big early season seen in the last odd-numbered year, 2019.

This year’s Alaska Department of Fish and Game salmon forecast is generally for a low harvest by historical standards, but still well above the poor 2020 harvest of 118 million fish, Lesh said. 2021 is expected to be comparable to the 10-year average for sockeyes, driven by strong sockeye projections for Bristol Bay, but harvests for the other four salmon species are forecast to be below the 10-year average.