A mask mandate issued by the Centers for Disease Control that applies to commercial fishing vessels will be enforced by the Coast Guard, but only in conjunction with regular operations.
Chief Warrant Officer Kurt Frederickson said that the Coast Guard will not be deploying separate COVID compliance monitoring teams, but instead will continue to perform routine vessel inspections and in the conduct of regular Coast Guard business observe, education, direct compliance and take any needed enforcement actions to ensure compliance with safety protocols. It is the responsibility of conveyance operators to ensure vessels are operated in accordance with public laws, regulations and good marine practice, he said.
In general, Frederickson added, mask wear will be required unless their wear would pose risks to personal, workplace safety or prevent compliance with personal protective equipment by regulation.
The mandate issued by the CDC on Feb. 1, notes that the mask rule does not apply when individuals are eating, drinking, taking medicine or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
The mandate is already prompting a lot of comment among commercial fishermen, who note that particularly during inclement weather situations, with high seas and the routine loud sounds of vessel engines that mask wearing would not make sense to them. On the other hand, one veteran harvester acknowledged, when someone unknown to the crew is boarding a vessel, including a Coast Guard inspector, it would make sense for everyone to be masked.
During the 2020 fisheries in Alaska’s famed wild salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, a number of veteran harvesters chose another safety option to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay. They and their crew quarantined for two weeks before setting out in their drift gillnetters for Bristol Bay and remained on their vessels for the entire fishery.
A copy of the CDC mask mandate is online at https://divcomplatform.s3.amazonaws.com/www.nationalfisherman.com/images/ee87c40389afbc0fecd2272e1e296b65.pdf.
Questions regarding the mandate may be emailed to the Coast Guard at firstname.lastname@example.org.