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Coast Guard releases fishing vessel collision findings
Aggressive actions and Rules of the Road violations
by all three operators caused the collision...


April 14, 2004

Alaska - Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Juneau and Marine Safety Detachment Sitka completed an investigation into the collisions between the fishing vessels Lovey Joann, Commander, and Hi-Tech that occurred on March 27, 2004 during the Sitka Sound herring sac roe fishery opening.

Coast Guard investigators conducted approximately two dozen interviews during the investigation, which revealed that the collisions occurred when the fishing vessel (F/V) Lovey Joann's operator attempted to maneuver into a desirable fishing area where the F/V Commander, F/V Hi-Tech, F/V Leading Lady and F/V Aleutian Spirit were already positioned. The operators of F/V Commander and F/V Hi-Tech apparently cooperated in an aggressive attempt to deny the F/V Lovey Joann access to the area by deliberately maneuvering their vessels to block the F/V Lovey Joann. During the maneuvering, the F/V Lovey Joann, F/V Commander and F/V Hi-Tech collided.

Coast Guard investigators found that aggressive actions and Rules of the Road violations by all three operators caused the collision. The weather was good and no equipment failures were reported. Some vessel damage occurred, however, no one was injured in the collisions and no pollution resulted.

"The waters in Southeast Alaska are treacherous enough without mariners using their vessels aggressively against one another," said Lt. Gary Koehler, Senior Investigating Officer at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office here. According to Koehler, the evidence revealed that all three vessel operators acted in a negligent fashion to obtain or maintain a position in the herring opening. Furthermore, witnesses told investigators that these aggressive tactics are "common practice" among the fishing fleet.

"The Coast Guard expects all mariners to operate their vessels safely and prudently, particularly in Southeast Alaska where narrow channels, rain, fog, strong winds and currents make navigation a challenge," said Cdr. John Sifling, the Captain of the Port of Southeast Alaska. "The water here is cold year-round, survival time is short, and Coast Guard search and rescue assets are often spread thin. For these reasons, the Coast Guard relies on mariners to assist one another and will not tolerate deliberate actions that harm human life and the environment." Sifling indicated that the Coast Guard would continue to look into these aggressive fishing tactics and would be discussing the investigative results with other regulators.

The Coast Guard is authorized to assess fines of up to $32,500 for negligent vessel operations and fines of up to $6,500 for each violation of a prescribed vessel navigation safety rule. The Coast Guard may decide to pursue civil penalty fines against all parties involved in the incident.



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