Ensuring the safety of Salmon Fishermen on the Columbia River

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The motor vessel New Pacific navigates west on the Columbia River as recreational vessels move out of the navigational channel clearing a way for the deep-draft vessel, Aug. 8, 2015. Navigational Rule 9 states that smaller vessels less than 20 meters in length are required to move out of the way of larger vessels who are limited by a channel. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

License plates attached to trucks and trailers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado dotted the five biggest boat ramps near the mouth of the Columbia River during the month of August. Camp grounds were full and boats swarmed the river as fishermen from all over the western United States chased the almighty Chinook Salmon otherwise known as ‘King Salmon.”

When the salmon begin their run up the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean, the river offers one of the best recreational fishing locations in the country. The recreational salmon season on the Lower Columbia River, known as Buoy 10, runs from August 1 to September 1. The season is known as Buoy 10 because the navigational Buoy 10 which marks the eastern boundary of the legal fishing zone. As the salmon move up river going into September, the recreational boating crowd follows as the fishing boundary moves eastward. More people on the water equals busier than normal operations for Coast Guard Sector Columbia River personnel.

Corey Deck, vice commander Flotilla 64, Coast Guard Auxiliary, checks the experation date of flares during a vessel safety check at the Hammond Marina in Hammond, Ore., Aug. 14, 2015. During the busy Buoy 10 fishing season, auxiliary members like Deck stand watch at five of the busiest boat ramps near the Columbia River offering education materials, safe boating reminders and free vessel safety checks. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Corey Deck, vice commander Flotilla 64, Coast Guard Auxiliary, checks the experation date of flares during a vessel safety check at the Hammond Marina in Hammond, Ore., Aug. 14, 2015. During the busy Buoy 10 fishing season, auxiliary members like Deck stand watch at five of the busiest boat ramps near the Columbia River offering education materials, safe boating reminders and free vessel safety checks. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Members from Sector Columbia River Enforcement, Sector Boarding Team, Station Cape Disappointment, and Auxiliary Division 6 participated in Operation Buoy 10, a collective effort to ensure the safety of all waterway users, through conducting safety and law enforcement surge operations during the entire month-long fishery. Coast Guard law enforcement teams conducted 94 boardings during the 2015 Buoy 10 season, which lead to seven violations but zero terminations.

Auxiliary from Flotillas 62 and 64 manned the most popular boat ramps to promulgate safety information and conduct courtesy vessel safety exams to the visiting boating public. They came in contact with and distributed safety information and advice to more than 50,000 people. Of those contacts 29 boaters requested safety exams. Safety exams are available upon request by boaters. Ten boats were saved by avoiding a costly mistake when auxiliary members gave a quick reminder to boaters to put in the bilge plug before getting underway.

Fishermen congregate on the Columbia River during the annual Buoy 10 salmon fishing season, Aug. 14, 2015. The busy waterway is patrolled by the Coast Guard and local marine agencies to protect people, enforce fisheries and safely maintain the shared waterway between recreational and commercial vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Fishermen congregate on the Columbia River during the annual Buoy 10 salmon fishing season, Aug. 14, 2015. The busy waterway is patrolled by the Coast Guard and local marine agencies to protect people, enforce fisheries and safely maintain the shared waterway between recreational and commercial vessels. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

The Sector Columbia River Sector Boarding Team members conducted law enforcement boardings and enforced Navigation Rule 9 (“Make Way”) to ensure the navigational channel was clear of recreational traffic for large commercial vessels. The SBT worked in conjunction with assets and deputies from the Clatsop County Marine Division.

Station Cape Disappointment and Air Station Astoria crews responded to 53 search-and-rescue cases during the main fisher season.

This year’s salmon run totaled approximately 1 million salmon running up the Columbia River. There were plenty of fish to keep the fishermen entertained, and some were skilled or lucky enough to bring home dinner. While others came away empty accept for fish stories like “The one that got away.”

“Operation Buoy 10 provides a continuous safety and law enforcement presence on the Columbia River during a critical time of the year,” said Lt. Jonathan Petie, Sector Columbia River enforcement. “It strengthens partnerships with local law enforcement, and ensures the boating public is well informed of the hazards of the Columbia River. The operation’s two pronged approach, boater education and active enforcement, ensures that the waterway remains safe and well-functioning.”

Norman Vielmette shows Corey Deck, Coast Guard Auxiliary, his boating safety class and boat registration cards during a vessel safety check prior to launching his boat at the Hammond Marina Boat Ramp in Hammond, Ore., Aug. 14, 2015. The Coast Guard Auxiliary regularly teaches boating safety classes and offers free vessel safety checks to boaters in the area. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Norman Vielmette shows Corey Deck, Coast Guard Auxiliary, his boating safety class and boat registration cards during a vessel safety check prior to launching his boat at the Hammond Marina Boat Ramp in Hammond, Ore., Aug. 14, 2015. The Coast Guard Auxiliary regularly teaches boating safety classes and offers free vessel safety checks to boaters in the area. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

This year the most important number is zero, as in zero lives lost during Buoy 10. This number is the goal every year, because the wives, family members and friends back home in the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and elsewhere, expect their loved ones to return home. The Coast Guard’s mission is to help make that happen.

“Our first goal is to educate boaters on how to be safe on the water and then if we have to, enforce laws and come to the rescue,” said Petie.

If the chase for King Salmon brings you to the mouth of the Columbia River, rest assured the Coast Guard will be close by to educate you and help you return to your home safely.

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