The fishing and maritime industries have been hit hard by COVID-19 as outbreaks have swiftly traveled through vessels and processers. No one knows for certain how an individual will respond to the virus; many show no signs of illness but may be highly contagious. Others become so ill they require hospitalization, and many develop long-term medical conditions as a result of the illness. Every aspect of the seafood supply chain has been distressed by the pandemic, especially for those who work in fishing and processing.
To reduce the transmission of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued an emergency order requiring all persons “traveling on conveyances into and within the United States” to wear a face mask. But how does this affect the fishing and maritime industries?
U.S. Coast Guard has been granted the authority to implement public health measures consistent with the CDC guidelines at seaports (e.g., passenger terminals, cargo handling facilities, and other shoreside facilities that provide transportation of persons or cargo). The CDC mask requirement has been interpreted by the U.S. Coast Guard to apply to “all forms of commercial maritime vessels,” including cargo ships, fishing vessels, research vessels, and self-propelled barges. The Marine Safety Information Bulletin states that all persons working or traveling on commercial vessels are required to “wear a face mask or cloth face covering when outside of individual cabins.”
It is with great sadness that we report the death of a commercial diver who was working in the waters of Port Angeles. According to a statement issued by the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, Anthony Gockerell, 35, died after his air cable apparently became entangled.
Peninsula Communications received the call that a commercial diver working at the Dungeness West geoduck track was in distress. Crewmembers reported that Gockerell signaled to the crew that his surface-supplied air umbilical cord was “unable to clear”, which the crew interpreted to mean that his cord was entangled in debris.
It was reported that crewmembers and officers with the State Department of Natural Resources (who were supervising the geoduck harvest) struggled for approximately two minutes before freeing Mr. Gockerell, who was diving in about 70 feet of water.
Watchstanders at the 17th District command center in Juneau received the call from Health Force Partners on behalf of F/V AMERICAN TRIUMPH at about 4 p.m. and directed the launch of a crew from Forward Operating Location Cold Bay. The vessel was located approximately 100 miles northwest of the Cold Bay location.
The 31-year old crewmember was hoisted by an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and transported to a LifeMed flight team in Cold Bay. She was then transported to a higher level of care in Anchorage.
District 17 Watchstanders in Juneau, Alaska received the request for assistance from HealthForce Partners on behalf of the F/V ALASKA OCEAN. A medevac was required for the injured fisherman.
A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew was deployed and traveled to the site of the accident, approximately 30 miles northeast of Cold Bay, Alaska. The injured crewmember was then transferred to the local Cold Bay medical clinic to await an additional transfer to Anchorage, Alaska for a higher level of care.
It is with great sadness that we report the death of two Oregon fishermen after the 38-foot F/V COASTAL REIGN capsized on Garibaldi Bar. The incident occurred near the mouth of Tillamook Bay on Saturday, February 20th.
According to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier, Coast Guard personnel had been watching the bar area from a watchtower as boats returned to port. “The bar was not closed, but there were small craft restrictions,” said Strohmaier.
At about 4:40PM, watchtower personnel watched as the vessel turned sideways in the surf then capsized while crossing the bar. Tillamook Bay rescue boats were immediately deployed, and Good Samaritan vessels responded to the scene. A USCG helicopter was deployed from Astoria and arrived shortly thereafter.
Before heading off to sea, workers have a great deal of planning and details to attend to. The last thing anyone wants to think about is becoming ill at sea. For many, COVID-19 has been the current threat, but for others, appendicitis at sea is a genuine and dangerous health emergency that requires immediate attention.
Each year about 300,000 Americans will require an emergency appendectomy or the surgical removal of the appendix. Acute appendicitis is most common among people between 10 and 35 years of age. Among the U.S. population, 1 in 20 will suffer from appendicitis at some time in their lives. Surgery is usually on an urgent or emergency basis and among health care experts is regarded as the best course of action.
When severe abdominal pain and nausea set in, most individuals will quickly seek medical attention that will result in a swift surgery. But what happens when the victim is working at sea? Assistance is required immediately. Last week, Watchstanders in the 17th District command center in Juneau received the call from the F/V ARICA requesting a medevac for one of their crew members who was presenting with signs of appendicitis.
The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an injured fisherman on December 30th from a vessel located approximately 80 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor. The F/V MAGNUS MARTENS was working in the Bering Sea when the accident occurred.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ALEX HALEY, which was on patrol in the Bering Sea near Unimak Island, received notification about the severely injured man via VHF marine radio.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was deployed and hoisted the injured fisherman. He was then flown to awaiting Guardian Flight Alaska personnel in Cold Bay who then transported him to Anchorage for a higher level of care.
The world watched today as the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Coventry, England. The recipient was Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother. With several vaccines becoming available in the weeks ahead, the next question is who will be included in the first phase of distribution?
Fishing and maritime industries have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. The rapid spread in processing facilities both on land and at sea has been devastating for workers and processors. Distribution and transportation disruption, border restrictions, and a change in the demand for fresh seafood due to restaurant closures and event cancellations are just a few of the many hardships the industry has faced.
Last week, the CDC advisory council recommended that those who work in the food and agriculture sectors be among the next wave of vaccinations. Priority for the first round of vaccinations will be given to health care and long-term care facility workers. This distribution is being called “Phase 1a”. It has been recommended that the next wave include first responders, educators, transportation workers, and food and agricultural workers (which includes fishermen and seafood processors). This group will be called “Phase 1b”.
The U.S. Coast Guard continues to search for the four fishermen who are missing after the F/V EMMY ROSE sank on Monday morning. The vessel was located approximately 20 miles off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts at the time of the incident.
Watchstanders at the First District Coast Guard Command Center in Boston received an alert from the vessel’s EPIRB after it made contact with the water. It was reported that no distress or mayday calls were made by the crew and that calls to cell phones and a satellite phone located aboard the vessel went unanswered.
The U.S. Coast Guard immediately launched a Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew as well as the Coast Guard Cutter VIGOROUS to search for the F/V EMMY ROSE. When responders arrived at the vessel’s last known position, they discovered debris as well as an empty, yet inflated and deployed life raft.