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New Safety Compliance Regulations for Commercial Fishing Vessels Effective October 16

On October 16, per the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, a dockside safety inspection or current documentation proving full compliance with the regulations set forth in 46 CFR Section 28 becomes mandatory for all U.S. commercial fishing, tender, and processing vessels operating or traversing more than three miles from the U.S. territorial sea baseline*. The dockside safety inspection requirement also applies to fishing vessels with more than sixteen people on board, anywhere, and to fish tenders in the Aleutian Trade.

One way in which to show compliance is to have on board a Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Decal no older than two years. Other ways in which to prove compliance include a CG-5587 form signed by a Coast Guard examiner, or having a letter of compliance signed by a USCG-accepted third party organization.

For those who have not yet undergone a dockside safety inspection, the Coast Guard urges vessel owners and operators to arrange their inspection without delay. The inspections are free of charge and currently there are no penalties for discrepancies; for whatever does not comply with safety standards, a work list will be issued along with a reasonable deadline by which to complete the requirements. According to the Coast Guard, most fishing vessels are already compliant and will pass inspection, and others will pass with a little further work. To make an appointment for your compliance inspection, you may contact your local Coast Guard station or go to for more information.

Work in the fishing industry is by its nature dangerous due to weather and sea conditions, long hours of hard physical work, and other demands. A vessel lacking in safety equipment or with an inadequately trained crew needlessly risks life and limb. Injury and fatality rates must be reduced (in an ideal world, eradicated). The goal of the new regulation is to improve safety and survival of those working in the fishing industry. The Coast Guard will continue to update the regulations as laid out in the Act.

*The territorial sea baseline is generally the low tide mark of a coastline, including land that is exposed at low tide. For some more jagged coastlines, including coastlines with islands, the baseline may a straight line between two outlying points. Anyone commercially fishing, tending, or processing outside this zone must be able to show compliance with safety regulations.

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