Boat on the sea
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Halibut-Processing1200x600-300x150How much does a commercial fisher make? Thanks to popular shows like Alaska Fish Wars, Deadliest Catch, and Wicked Tuna, interest in the fishing industry is at an all-time high. But how much can a commercial fisher really expect to earn? This is the million-dollar question, and the short answer is, it depends. The long answer? It depends.

It depends on how long a worker is at sea. It depends on the location. It depends on the species being fished. It depends on how experienced the worker is, and it depends on the type of contract the fisher signs. In addition, the fishing industry is dependent on many factors that are beyond the worker’s control. The rewards can be tremendous. However, the hardships can be significant. Salaries vary widely between regions and are closely tied to seasonal conditions and experience. A good season can bring great rewards, while a poor season may have workers questioning their decision to work at sea. It is also one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

According to ZipRecruiter (a job posting service and employment search engine), the average annual pay for a Commercial Fishers in the United States is $53,875. Annual salaries are reported as high as $79,000 and as low as $18,500, but most Commercial Fishing salaries are currently $40,500 (25th percentile) to $67,000 (75th percentile) per year across the United States.

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NOAA-Crab-300x198Western Alaska has been hit hard economically by the long-term decline in crab stocks. This year, the Bering Sea snow crab total allowable catch was reduced by 90 percent while the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery has been closed entirely. This week, changes were made to House Bill 41, a bill allowing designated non-profits to grow shellfish in hatcheries, moving the bill closer to becoming a law. HB 41 has now passed the Legislature; next, it will move to Gov. Dunleavy’s desk for signing.

This bill would allow for select non-profit organizations to carry out restoration and enhancement projects for specific shellfish species like king crab, sea cucumbers, abalone, and razor clams. Organizations would utilize hatcheries to raise then release shellfish into Alaskan seas in an effort to support and seed commercial fishing in the region.

HB 41 plays a key role in the building blocks to make mariculture a growing and significant part of the overall Alaska fisheries portfolio,” said Dan Ortiz, an independent Alaska representative who originally presented the bill in February, 2021.

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Iced-Crab-Pot-300x173The loss of the F/V SCANDIES ROSE on New Year’s Eve 2019 was the deadliest accidents since the 2017 capsizing of the F/V DESTINATION, in which all six crew members tragically died. The lawyers at Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC understand firsthand how devastating these accidents are to those experiencing the loss of loved ones, as we represented the families and survivors in both heartbreaking cases.

These tragic sinkings and capsizing accidents are not altogether isolated. It is imperative for the safety of the industry that we better understand how ice accumulates on pot cages, netting, and the parts within each pot.

In December 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation requested that the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) study the icing factors that were involved in the loss of the F/V SCANDIES ROSE as well as the loss of the F/V DESTINATION. The U.S. Coast Guard recently released the results of this long awaited study regarding the ice accretion and ice accumulation on fishing gear. The study and experiments specifically focused on ice accretion and ice accumulation on the crab and cod pots used in the icy waters of the Alaskan Bering Sea.

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SockeySalmon-300x172Alaska biologists have forecasted another massive run of sockeye salmon this summer in Bristol Bay. Processors are being urged by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association to gear up for the surge. It has been found that boosting capacity helps returns on future runs.

According to state records, 66 million salmon returned to Bristol Bay last year and approximately 40 million were harvested and processed. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has predicted that more than 75 million salmon will return to Bristol Bay rivers this summer. According to the agency, about 60 million fish will be harvested by commercial fisheries, about 20 million more than last year.

The industry concern is that fishers and processors may not be able to keep up. Harvesting and delivering this large quantity of fish means gearing up with workers, and companies have been short staffed. Finding enough workers has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges with the federal H-2B visa program, which is often the source of commercial fishing workers. Last month, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Homeland security committed to adding 35,000 nonagricultural worker visas, in an effort to ease the shortage of tourism and fishing workers.

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Coast-Guard-Cutter-Orcas-300x169Watchstanders at U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Bend received a mayday call on Friday, March 25th, 2022, just before midnight. The call came from Mike Morgan, master of the 32-foot F/V WHITE SWAN III. It was reported that the sinking vessel was found approximately 35 miles off the coast of Florence, Oregon, in the northern section of Heceta Bank.

A Station Siuslaw River Motor Lifeboat crew arrived first on the scene shortly after receiving the distress call to find a debris field. Additional teams were deployed to help in the search including:

  • Coast Guard Sector Columbia River MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew
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Watchstanders at AmericasFinest-300x145the 17th Coast Guard District command center in Juneau, AK received a medevac request after a crewmember aboard the 262-foot fish processor AMERICA’S FINEST suffered serious foot injuries.

The request is reported to have come from the vessel’s master at approximately 2:30am on Thursday, March 17th. The vessel was located about 20 miles west of St. George Island at the time of the incident.

A US Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was deployed while the AMERICA’S FINEST vessel traveled toward Dutch Harbor. An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Kodiak was also launched to provide additional support. The injured worker was hoisted at approximately 12:52pm, then flown to Dutch Harbor where LifeMed personnel were waiting.

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Law enforcement crew members working on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BAILEY BARCO found illegally caught fish after they boarded and searched a fishing vessel. The incident took place on February 19th, while the vessel was located about 12 miles northeast of Kodiak, Alaska.

The 38-foot F/V COMPETITION was searched, and it was discovered that they were carrying 18 halibut and one ling cod during a closed season. Law enforcement personnel issued violations for possession of halibut during a closed fishery, and for operating beyond 3 nautical miles with an expired EPIRB hydrostatic release. The vessel was also operating without a current commercial fishing vessel safety examination. The catch was seized, then taken to Kodiak and turned over to NOAA Law Enforcement officers.

“Working with our partners in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our enforcement efforts help the many legitimate Alaskan fishermen we encounter on a daily basis, ensuring nobody gains an unfair competitive advantage at the expense of biological sustainability,” said Lt. Brian Williams, Bailey Barco commanding officer.

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Glory-300x166Two fishermen were rescued by the US Coast Guard on Monday February 7th near Sitka, Alaska after the 40-foot F/V GLORY began taking on water.

Sector Juneau Command Center watchstanders received a call from the distressed vessel at about 8 p.m. An Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and crew were launched and directed to the vessel at Islet Passage, approximately nine miles south of Sitka.

The US Coast Guard aircrew lowered a rescue swimmer onto the vessel to evaluate the situation. Crewmembers were unable to locate the source of the flooding, so it was advised that the fishermen abandon ship. US Coast Guard aircrew successfully hoisted the two fishermen at about 9 p.m.

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image005-300x209On January 21st, 2022, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced that her office has approved Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s request for an official disaster determination.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funds will be available to fishermen and crew members, seafood processors, and researchers who have felt the impact of this difficult season. The amount of the relief package will be determined at a later date. It is possible that some fishery related businesses will also be eligible for aid from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Helping communities to bounce back from the impacts of fishery disasters is essential, and we are working to ensure there is relief coming for impacted Alaskans,” Raimondo said in a statement. “Disasters like these, which impact multiple fisheries across Alaska, illustrate how vital sustainable fisheries are to our economy at not only the local level, but for the economic health of our nation’s blue economy.”

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Ocean_Waves-300x173People often believe that all attorneys know all the laws of the land.  Just as you would go to a trained cardiologist for heart issues or a radiologist to diagnose a broken bone, there are many types of lawyers who are versed in many types of law. It is always best to engage with a specialist.

Why Should You Work with a Maritime Lawyer?

Maritime Law is a very specific set of rules and laws that deal with injuries and accidents that occur on or near a body of water, a lake, ocean, or sea. While these laws were originally created to address national and international commerce, they have since expanded to include fishing vessels, recreational and passenger boats, oil rigs, and more. Virtually anyone injured on or near a body of water should consult with an attorney who specializes in Maritime Law.

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