Commercial fishing boats are rafted together in May 2016 in the harbor in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing boats are rafted together in May 2016 in the harbor in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: State announces protocols for commercial fishermen and charters

Two more cases announced Thursday brings state total to 337

At a press conference last week addressing changes that allowed some businesses to reopen under revised health mandates, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration also announced new guidelines for fishing charters and commercial fishing vessels.

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and Dunleavy announced during the April 23 press conference a modification for fishing charters in an amendment to mandate 16 — Attachment J of mandate 16 outlines social distancing rules and capacity limitations for fishing charters operating at this time.

Charter operations must:

• Have passengers bring their own food/drinks to be kept separate from the crew’s

• Not pass equipment to or share it with passengers, including fishing rods

• Keep 6 feet of distance between all individuals, or maintain as much social distancing as can be accomplished on the vessel

• Have all passengers and crew members wear cloth face coverings

• Establish a COVID-19 Mitigation Plan and post it publicly on the vessel. The posted plan has to clearly state that no one with COVID-19 symptoms is allowed to board.

In terms of capacity, charter boats are allowed to take aboard a full load if the people all live under one roof. If the charter guests come from different households, however, the charter has to limit the number of people allowed on board to 25% of the capacity allowed by its license type, Crum said.

The state also announced mandate 17 on Thursday night, which sets out guidelines for independent commercial fishing vessels. These are all “catcher and tender vessels that have not agreed to operate under a fleet-wide plan submitted by a company, association or entity that represents a fleet of vessels,” according to the mandate.

Mandate 17 sets out a list of protective measures and protocols that commercial fishing vessels must follow in order to operate in Alaska waters and ports. They include things like screening all crew members upon arrival, having out-of-state crew members self quarantine for 14 days prior to fishing, and limiting contact with members of the communities where the vessels are fishing. Crew members who don’t live in those communities aren’t allowed to leave the boat unless it’s essential, for example.

The full list of protocols for commercial fishing vessels can be read here: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#inbox/QgrcJHsTlmBVnShZDtBQtkRbCfGGzlxdvgQ?projector=1&messagePartId=0.1

Vessel captains are required to enact these protective protocols and ensure their crew members adhere to them, according to the mandate. Captains must also sign an acknowledgement form and be able to provide a copy of it to any seafood processing agent or federal, state or local authority figure.

State officials said these protective protocols are the result of working with commercial fishing stakeholders to find solutions for a safe fishing season.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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