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Fisherman Found Dead Inside F/V Westerly

Westerly-300x167On Thursday March 28th, 2024, a fisherman lost his life in a fishing boat accident off Point Reyes, California. The incident was reported at approximately 4:30 p.m. prompting a response from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Helicopter Unit, known as Henry-1. The vessel involved was identified as the F/V WESTERLY, a Dungeness crab fishing boat that crashed onto the rocks near Chimney Rock. Reports indicated that the boat was lodged on the rocks, battered by waves that forced it onto its side. The damaged vessel began sinking.

A rescue swimmer from the U.S. Coast Guard was dispatched and found an individual aboard the vessel. According to the sheriff’s office, the swimmer was unable to access the cabin without breaching equipment. The Henry-1 team executed a rescue operation, bringing in breaching equipment and a paramedic from the Marin County Fire Department. The tactical flight officer and paramedic gained entry to the cabin and found a deceased individual later identified as Matthew Paul, a 49-year-old commercial fisherman from Half Moon Bay. Mr. Paul’s remains were transported by air to the Marin County Coroner’s Office, where an inquiry into the cause of death is expected.

The first person to notice the vessel near the Marine Protected Area of Point Reyes was a ranger at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Upon discovering the vessel, the ranger quickly notified the relevant authorities, prompting a collaborative effort among several agencies.

The Office of Spill Prevention and Response estimates that the stranded vessel has a diesel capacity of around 400 gallons. It remains uncertain whether there is fuel leakage. Efforts to manage the situation will persist, involving close collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Southwest, Marin County, the National Park Service, and NOAA to evaluate the condition of the vessel and the risk of environmental contamination.

The investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing. The location of the incident is popular with commercial crabbers but is known for its dangerous rocky outcroppings and a history of fatalities. Efforts are underway to safely remove the F/V WESTERLY, taking into consideration the challenging weather and location.

For decades, Mr. Paul had been fishing for crab along the coast of California, as highlighted in a 2023 interview. Like many in the commercial fishing industry, he faced economic hardships in past years as Dungeness crab fishing seasons were cut short or cancelled.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced that the 2024 fishing season for zones 3, 4, 5, and 6 will close prematurely on April 8 at 6 p.m.

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