October 12, 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. Thursday is the dockside safety exam deadline. Many boats could already be covered. Is yours?  More after this…
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Any and all fishing vessels that operate beyond three nautical miles from the coastline are required to have a Coast Guard dockside safety exam. The exams have been voluntary since the 90’s, but this Thursday it becomes the law. Dockside
“We refer to the dockside exam sometimes as a snapshot in time.” 
Scott Wilwert is Alaska’s Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety Program Coordinator in Juneau.
“What it does for boarding officers is, it allows them to view a vessel with a decal as someone who has been checked at dockside and at least at that moment in time had everything they needed and it was current.
Decals issued for the voluntary exams were good for two years, but the Coast Guard has granted a grace period. 
“So our position right now is that we will continue to issue decals, and punch out the holes on the decals for the period of two years. But if someone is boarded at sea and can show that they have had a past dockside exam since January 1st of 2013, then we will honor that for a period up to five years.”
Wilwert says vessel insurance coverage and the observer program have motivated many fishermen to do the exams in the past and overall they have seen a great response.
“Alaska in general has embraced the safety decal, even at a voluntary capacity. I heard once that the Alaska fishermen’s participation rate was about four and a half times more than the National average for this program.”
Wilwert assures that after the October 15th deadline vessels won’t be terminated solely on not having a safety decal, but could be terminated due to hazardous conditions and/or expired gear aboard the vessel.
“Say in the instance where a vessel was boarded and they show through the at sea boarding that they are in full compliance with all the regulations, but for whatever reason they didn’t get the opportunity to get their dockside exam or they didn’t know about the rule. They will be given a warning and issued a period of time to comply after receiving the mandatory exam to get in when they get back to port.  
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“The value of the dockside exam would be that opportunity in a non punitive environment at the dock, when they are not trying to fish or operate and to have that extra set of eyes to come on board, take a look at their gear, their systems, their journals and their training, and let them know where they stand with regard to the law.  It’s just a piece of mind for a lot of folks.”
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Stephanie Mangini.