Commercial fishermen are no longer required to wear masks while working in outdoor areas. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a federal order on June 11 revising the rule that went into place inFebruary.

U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Information Bulletin stated that “mask wear in outdoor areas of maritime transportation conveyances and hubs is no longer required.”

An outdoor area on a vessel is defined as “a space that is permanently open to the weather on one or more sides and, if covered by a deck or canopy, any spot on the overhead is less than 15 feet from the nearest opening.”

However, vessel operators must still require all persons to wear masks when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel unless they are in outdoor areas.  And operators of transportation hubs must require all persons to wear a mask when entering or while indoors on the premises.

The outdoor turn-about stemmed from a bipartisan push back to the CDC and the Coast Guard by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Representative Jared Goldin of Maine speaking on behalf of fishing groups in their regions.

They stated that “Fishing vessels frequently use loud motors or machinery that can make it difficult for crew members to hear one another, so they may rely on lip-reading to improve communication and work together safely.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski expressed safety concerns at a  Senate hearing in May.

“This is more a safety hazard than anything else — you’re out on a boat, the winds are howling, your mask is soggy wet. Tell me how anyone thinks this is a sane and a sound policy.” 

The Coast Guard clarified that the reversal does not supersede federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial regulations that still require the wearing of masks in outdoor areas of conveyances and at transportation hubs.

And, the CDC continues to recommend that people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask to protect themselves and others.