Connecting With the Public – Sector Los Angeles Hosts Commercial Fishing Industry Day

Fishermen complete a survival suit swim under the watchful eye of Los Angeles County Fire Unit Baywatch. Photo by Marc Nguyen

Fishermen complete survival suit swim under the watchful eye of Los Angeles County Fire Unit Baywatch. Photo by Marc Nguyen

Story by Ensign Michael Schuetzler

If ever there was a profession that pitted man against nature, it would be fishing.

On Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, a diverse team of Coast Guard experts combined their various seamanship and technology skills in an effort to make commercial fishing — widely known as the most dangerous occupation in America — a little bit safer for local fishermen in Southern California.

As the saying goes “the sea yields to knowledge.” For commercial fishermen, the knowledge of how to handle an emergency situation at sea is vital, as fishing crews often work long hours in less than ideal conditions. For this reason, Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles / Long Beach held a full day of safety training for local commercial fishermen.

“Knowing what to do when there’s flooding, or a fire, or when a crew member falls overboard can make the difference between a trip to Davy Jones’ Locker or returning home to their families,” said Marc Nguyen, a commercial fishing vessel safety examiner.

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Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Swallow demonstrates the operation of a P6 portable pump. Photo by Marc Nguyen

The fishermen first met with Sanford “Sandy” Needle, a Sector Los Angeles / Long Beach Search and Rescue (SAR) controller, who provided the fishermen with the critical information they needed to improve the Coast Guard’s ability to successfully respond to a SAR case. The participants conducted hands-on training with an Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon (EPIRB), while Needle discussed visual distress signals and demonstrated the best way to make a mayday call.

For the second portion, the fishermen covered the hazards and difficulties associated with preparation for a helicopter rescue with Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Peach, a rescue swimmer with Air Station Los Angeles.

Next up, Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Swallow, a boat crew member from Station Los Angeles, demonstrated the operation of a P6 portable pump for de-watering. Afterwards, Nguyen instructed the fishermen on shipboard damage control methods and tested their skills with some hands-on pipe patching and plugging on the Coast Guard’s damage control trainer.

Rounding out the instruction was Richard Ullrich, an instructor from the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, who shared various cold water survival skills with the group. At the conclusion of the presentation, the class put their new skills to the test by jumping into the water in the local boat basin under the watchful eye of a Los Angeles County Fire Unit representative.

Local commercial fishermen participate in a full day of safety training. Photo by Marc Nguyen

Local commercial fishermen participate in a full day of safety training. Photo by Marc Nguyen

It was a fun, effective training event for the attendees, and both parties gained a better understanding of each other’s world of work. Word-of-mouth advertisement from the participants spread along the fishing docks in the area, and calls began pouring in from the commercial fishing community asking about the next scheduled training event.

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