Boat on the sea
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North_American-300x195At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday May 14th, 2024, watchstanders at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound received a call that the 91-foot F/V NORTH AMERICAN had partially sunk alongside a pier just east of the Ballard Bridge.

The Seattle Fire Department responded and installed a containment boom around the vessel to prevent pollution, while a dive team worked to plug vents and reduce the risk of further fuel discharge. A second layer of boom was deployed to minimize the chance of a fuel slick escaping. The vessel has a reported maximum capacity of 32,500 gallons of diesel. The U.S. Coast Guard has opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and contracted with Global Dive and Salvage, an oil spill response organization, to manage clean-up and response operations.

The F/V NORTH AMERICA was featured in Season 4 of the reality show Deadliest Catch. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

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KodiakEnterprise-300x192The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its findings on the fire incident that engulfed the F/V KODIAK ENTERPRISE on April 8, 2023. At around 3:00AM, a fire broke out aboard the commercial F/V  KODIAK ENTERPRISE while it was docked at the Trident Seafoods facility in Tacoma, Washington.

The initial sighting of the fire came from a deckhand aboard a neighboring vessel. A Trident security guard was alerted, who in turn notified a Trident official. The official then alerted the four crewmembers who were sleeping onboard during the scheduled overhaul. Fortunately, all emerged unharmed from the incident.

The fire raged for six days until first responders finally declared it extinguished on April 14th. No pollution or injuries were reported from the incident. However, the F/V KODIAK ENTERPRISE, valued at an estimated $56.6 million, was declared a total loss.

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Chief-Joseph-FV-300x199Watchstanders at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound were notified around 6 a.m. that the 48-foot F/V CHIEF JOSEPH, was in distress and taking on water. Aboard the vessel was one individual and a dog. The pair evacuated the vessel using a life raft.

Sector watchstanders dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from U.S. Coast Guard Station Bellingham, and the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ADELIE to assist the distressed vessel.

The survivor and the dog made it safely to the shores of Henry Island on the life raft.

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Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Salmon fishing in the federal waters of Cook Inlet will restart this summer with a shift in management to the federal government, as finalized in a recent ruling. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is assuming control over salmon management in the inlet waters categorized as the federal exclusive economic zone, extending beyond 3 miles offshore. This new regulation becomes effective on May 30th.

Up until this point, the state had overseen salmon fisheries in both state and federal waters of the inlet. However, due to a decade-long legal battle, federal courts mandated a shift in management. The United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA), comprising commercial salmon fishermen, initiated legal action against the federal government in 2013, alleging a failure to formulate a salmon harvest management plan for the federal waters of the inlet. Instead of crafting a specific plan for Cook Inlet salmon, the National Marine Fisheries Service had relied on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which historically managed salmon harvests across the inlet in both state and federal waters since statehood.

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Peter-Pan-Logo-300x169The financial troubles of Peter Pan Seafoods have escalated. The King County Superior Court in Washington state has approved a request from Wells Fargo Bank to place the seafood processor into receivership. Peter Pan’s financial affairs will be overseen by the Los Angeles-based Stapleton Group.

The petition filed last week by Wells Fargo Managing Director Gary Harrigian asked the court to appoint Stapleton Group as controller of Peter Pan Seafoods assets.

Mr. Harrigian asserted in his petition that appointing a receiver was imperative “to protect, preserve and maximize the value of the business and assets, including, without limitation, the collateral, and its revenue-producing potential to avoid further loss, injury and impairment.”

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Tanner_Crab-300x200An indictment from a federal grand jury in Alaska has been issued, accusing the owner and captains of two crab catcher vessels of unlawfully transporting crab from Alaska, a violation of the Lacey Act.

According to legal documents, Corey Potter is identified as the owner of two fishing vessels. Justin Welch and Kyle Potter serve as the captains. Between February and March of 2024, these vessels amassed a haul exceeding 7,000 pounds of Tanner and golden king crab in Southeast Alaska. Corey Potter allegedly instructed Kyle Potter and Justin Welch to transport the crab to Seattle, Washington, in an effort to fetch a higher price than that which could be obtained in Alaska. Neither captain docked the harvested crab at an Alaskan port, failing to document the harvest on a fish ticket, as mandated by state law.

Reportedly, the crab was transported through Canadian and Washington waters. Upon reaching Washington, a significant portion of the king crab was discovered to be dead or unsuitable for sale. Corey Potter purportedly admitted that some of the crab on board was afflicted with Bitter Crab Syndrome (BCS), a fatal parasitic disease affecting crustaceans. An additional 4,000 pounds of Tanner crab was allegedly disposed of due to the risk of BCS contamination. Legal documents contend that had the crab been correctly landed in Alaska, the harvest would have been inspected, and infected crab would have been identified and discarded before departing from Alaska.

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Last week, Nigel Stacey and Joe Stacey, partners at Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC, were honored to serve as judges for the esteemed 31st Annual Judge John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition.

This annual competition hosted 32 law school teams from across the country to deliver arguments on issues pertaining to maritime law. The event honors Judge John R. Brown, renowned for his service as a distinguished admiralty judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Other volunteers in this competition have included federal judges, prominent members of the maritime bar, presidents and past presidents of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, as well as admiralty professors.

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The-Bering-Sea-300x142Peter Pan Seafood’s future has been uncertain since January when the company disclosed plans to shutter its King Cove facility for the winter fishing seasons of cod, whitefish, and crab. Today, the company has officially announced it will “suspend operations at its processing facilities, ceasing both summer and winter production cycles indefinitely.”

The cessation of operations follows shortly after Peter Pan finalized an agreement with Silver Bay Seafoods. Silver Bay has officially acquired Peter Pan’s Valdez processing plant and will oversee the operations of Peter Pan’s facilities in Port Moller and Dillingham for the upcoming season.

The agreement raised numerous industry concerns, particularly regarding the future of the King Cove plant. Moreover, uncertainty lingers around the fate of the Port Moller and Dillingham facilities, with Silver Bay’s commitment limited to operating them for the upcoming “2024 salmon season.”

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Kodiak-Harbor-from-the-Glacier-Bay-300x219Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC is pleased to announce that Senate Bill 93 sailed through the Alaska House with a resounding 39-1 majority, with only Representative David Eastman, R-Wasilla, in opposition. This legislation, championed by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and several other organizations, raises the caps on compensation from the Alaska Fisherman’s Fund for injuries and illness sustained by commercial fishermen. Its passage strengthens the assurance that medical expenses from fishing-related accidents are better addressed for crew members.

“I think it’s crucial that we support hard working Alaskans, especially when they’ve become ill or injured on the job and need money from funds that they have paid into,” said Senate Labor and Commerce Committee Chair Jesse Bjorkman R-Nikiski. “Commercial fishermen will have greater financial support from the Alaska Fisherman’s Fund when they file a claim with no cost to the State, because the Fisherman’s Fund dollars come from fees received from commercial fishing license sales.”

The Fishermen’s Fund was established in 1951. The fund provides medical treatment and care for licensed commercial fishermen who sustain injuries while working in fishing activities in Alaska. Whether offshore or onshore, fishermen are covered while on active crew status.

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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.

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