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ALASKA FACTORY TRAWLER FLEET BEGINS 2010 FISHING SEASON

The fishing season opened today for the Bering Sea Factory Trawler fleet targeting Pollock. The total allowable catch this year is 813,000 metric tons. The Bering Sea Pacific Cod season also opened today with a similar quota of 168,000 metric tons.

The seasons are critical to many fish processors who make their living fishing in stormy and freezing Alaska waters. While the majority deckhands and processors for the Bering Sea fleet reside in Washington, crewmen come to Alaska from nearly every State in nation seeking potentially lucrative positions. Fish processors working full seasons on some quota share vessels can earn $50,000 to $80,000. To make such earnings crewmen sometimes work sixteen hour days for weeks at time and are exposed to risks of injury. If proper safety precautions are not followed, a moment's negligence or defective equipment can quickly lead to serious and permanent injury. Crewmen injured as a result of negligence or unseaworthiness are protected and entitled to benefits under Federal Maritime law including the Jones Act.

In past years tragedy has hit the Alaska fishing fleet hard with the sinkings of the ALASKA RANGER and the KATMAI in 2008. Few safety regulations govern uninspected fishing vessels and those regulations mainly focus on surviving a vessel sinking rather than improving safety in the factories and decks of the Alaska fishing fleet. Many in the fishing industry remain resistant to legislation for safety rules aboard commercial fishing vessels. The Coast Guard investigation into the sinking of the ALASKA RANGER has yet to be issued.

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