Seawatch: UFA holds seminar on new health mandates

United Fishermen of Alaska, with some financial help from Icicle Seafoods, held an informative webinar last week on the state’s mandate No. 17, which is the Alaska protective plan for independent fishing vessels.

The mandate does not apply to vessels that have agreed to operate under a fleet plan with their buyer, such as plans put together by Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, and others that have a regular fleet that delivers exclusively to them.

Appendix 1 to mandate 17 lays out the particulars of the mandate, and appendix 2 of the mandate is a form that independent vessels must fill out and provide to their processor, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on request, that identifies which protective plan they are operating under.

Thomas Koloski, Commander of Infrastructure branch of Alaska Unified Command, walked fishermen through the mandate and Appendix 2 in the webinar, including some minor changes that are being made.

Koloski acknowledged that some vessels may have to follow mandate 17 for one fishery but then be under the plan of a processor for another, which would require updating their appendix 2 form.

He said that having processors or tenders check the documentation saves having to come up with a new system of submitting it.

“Instead of inventing a new way of doing this, we wanted to use our existing systems to ensure that this documentation is in place. (When you offload your catch) you’re going to have your binder that’s got all your documentation in it, so when you show them your license, etc., you’ll also show them your appendix 2.”

He said he was leaving it up to industry to figure out how to be tracing and maintaining copies of the documents but had suggestions.

“What we’re recommending, because of social distancing concerns, is that you have a signed hard copy of Appendix 02, along with your fishing license, you take a picture of it, and send it through text or email to the tender or processor before you start your first transaction with them, and they maintain an electronic copy.”

In addition to filling out appendix 2, vessel captains are required to keep a log as a written or time-stamped electronic document covering crew member monitoring and self-quarantining time and place if they are coming from out of state.

If they are state residents, skippers should make an annotation in the logbook of where the person has been living for the prior two weeks. If they have shown no symptoms during that time, they have met the criteria for self-quarantine.

If crew members are coming in from out of state, either on the vessel or by air, there needs to be documentation of when they arrived and when they have completed the stay-at-home order and attesting that they have been symptom-free.

“If you’re coming up on a vessel, your last stop at an out of state port, that will start the clock on your self-quarantine,” Koloski said. “You need to document that start, and the fact that you have not made port since then, have had no symptoms and then you can annotate when you started self-quarantine.”

He said that they are still working on a plan for open-air skiffs such as setnetters, and that mandate 17 is designed for captains and crew that are living on their boats.

Until that plan is completed, Koloski referred skiff fishermen to mandate 16 and the guidance document for fishing charters and remote lodges and camping.

He asked that all crew members flying in wear cloth face coverings in transit, something some airlines are requiring anyway, and suggested supplying crew members with a letter stating that they are traveling in support of critical infrastructure.

He stressed that being part of critical infrastructure does not exempt anyone from self-quarantine upon arrival in the state, but that staying aboard the vessel while it is fishing is considered quarantine, as long as temperatures are taken twice daily.

However, if it is necessary for a crew member to board the vessel before finishing their 14-day quarantine ends and it is not possible to fully quarantine in a separate room, the 14-day self-quarantine period must be restarted for the entire crew.

For crew members who live locally or return to port daily, crew members, family or roommates must practice social distancing.

The mandate lays out on-board practices for interactions with the local communities such as bringing on supplies, having on-board repairs done and delivering product. Crew members are not allowed off the vessel except for essential purposes.

Vendors are required to wear a mask and face shield while onboard and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after boarding the vessel.

Koloski highly recommended going to the “coronavirus corner” at discoveryhealthmd.com for explicit and detailed recommendations for on-board care.

He said that one of the more frequent questions he fields is what to do if a crew member becomes ill.

The mandate calls for strict on-board isolation of that crew member, obviously a difficult situation for some.

“We understand that isolation for a lot of smaller vessels is just not going to be possible,” he said. “You’re not going to have a dedicated cabin, you’re not going to have dedicated head facilities. It’s very important, if you cannot isolate that individual, you need to be monitoring and looking at quarantine for the entire crew.”

He added that if someone is showing COVID-19 symptoms it is vital to get to a harbor as quickly as possible, because “things can get really ugly really fast,” and being near a medical facility just in case they crash could be life-saving.

“This is not something you can just brush off and fish through,” he said.

There is also a reporting requirement from the Coast Guard for any vessel with potential COVID-19 illness to notify the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, either Sector Anchorage or Sector Juneau.

While there will not be any additional manpower out roaming the docks to check compliance with the mandate, failure to provide the Acknowledgement Form, Appendix 02, upon request could result in an order to cease operations and a fine of up to $1,000.

The full webinar can be found at http://www.ufafish.org/ufa-covid-19/.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com

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