Wednesday, October 16, 2013

US Coast Guard Braces for Western Alaska Winter Fisheries

US Coast Guard officials are standing ready to come to the aid of commercial fishing vessels in distress in Western Alaska’s winter fisheries.

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews on Oct. 15 stood up a seasonal forward operating location in Cold Bay in advance of winter groundfish and crab fisheries.

This year’s forward operating location will consist of one Jayhawk with rotating crews from Kodiak. A second Jayhawk and crew will remain at the ready in Kodiak to assist in any long-range or complex cases. The forward operating location in Cold Bay ensures the Coast Guard will be able to assist fish harvesters working in and around Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands. A Coast Guard cutter equipped with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Kodiak will also be on patrol in the region throughout the season.

Earlier this week, a Coast Guard Jayhawk crew medevaced an ailing fisherman from the 210-foot F/V Alaska Juris to Cold Bay. The Jayhawk crew rendezvoused with the Alaska Juris some 110 miles north of Cold Bay, hoisted the patient aboard the helicopter and transported him to Cold Bay for further care. Last November, a forward deployed air crew rescued five men from the tug Polar Wind when it grounded 20 miles east of Cold Bay.

Air Station Kodiak utilizes forward operating locations throughout the state to cut down response times to mariners in distress. In summer, Jayhawk crews are deployed to Cordova and Arctic regions.

Capt. David Travers, chief of incident management for the Coast Guard 17th District, said that the Coast Guard recognizes the danger posed by Alaska’s harsh maritime environment and the nature of essential work being done statewide. “Establishing forward operating locations during peak seasons of maritime activity greatly reduce the time it takes to respond to emergencies from Kodiak and allows us to save lives,” he said.

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