Coast Guard, National Guard join forces for deployment to Bristol Bay

Partnership is first of its kind in effort to conduct exams, inspections for commercial fishermen in the area
A crew readies for departure to Bristol Bay at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on June 14, 2021.
A crew readies for departure to Bristol Bay at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on June 14, 2021.(KTUU)
Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 6:33 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Monday marked departure day for a large U.S. Coast Guard crew bound for Bristol Bay from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as part of its annual safety checks for commercial fishing vessels, ahead of some of the busiest times on the water in the Southwest Alaska community.

“We’re that second set of eyes before all the fishermen head out,” said USCG Petty Officer 2nd Class Holly Olivia Hugunin, who is a marine science technician, “just to make sure they’re set to go, have a nice successful season, and come back home.”

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Task Force headed to Bristol Bay to conduct safety inspections for commercial fishermen in the area, including bringing vessels up to compliance with federal regulations and making sure flares, charts, navigational signals and fire extinguishers, for example, are all on board.

The MSTF partnered for the first time with the Alaska Army National Guard as well as the U.S. Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol for the marine safety deployment. The checks also ensure the presence and viability of onboard emergency positions indicating radio beacons and immersion suits, the Coast Guard said.

“This is a team effort,” said Cmdr. Jereme Altendorf in a prepared release Monday morning. Altendorf is an emergency management specialist at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage. “We’re fortunate to be teaming up with the Alaska Army National Guard and the Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol for transportation [...] They are an invaluable part of this operation.”

Members of the MTSF and Alaska Army National Guard Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 641st Aviation Regiment, were at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for the joint operation Monday morning. In years past, the MSTF flew commercially instead of with the help of the National Guard and Air Force CAP.

“I think it’s really great,” said Maj. Daniel Klinkner of the Alaska Army National Guard. “This is the first time that we have worked with the Coast Guard, and we go to their base in Kodiak quite often, but in this instance, this is the first time providing airlift for them.”

In 2020, during which the MSTF was still able to get out to Bristol Bay for the safety checks, the Coast Guard said approximately 375 exams were conducted, with one for each vessel. Most boats had three to six people on board, it said.

Sign-up for the safety exam is free. All vessels that pass the safety exam also receive a decal that is good for two years, which, when properly displayed, reduces the likelihood of a Coast Guard boarding at sea, according to a release from USCG.

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