Safety at sea workshop held in Pohnpei

On September 4th, a jointly hosted daylong Safety at Sea Workshop for local fishermen at the Tuna Commission was held.   The Lieutenant Governor, Feliciano Perman, provided welcoming remarks and the Executive Director of NORMA, Eugene Pangelinan, outlined the need for the training and additional safety protocols for boats.

During the workshop, presentations were made by the Department of Public Safety, Pohnpei Port Authority, Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the US Coast Guard, Pohnpei Surf Club, Pohnpei Fishing Club Members, NORMA and the Tuna Commission.

To highlight some of the important discussion in the meeting, the Pohnpei Fishing Club wanted to highlight some of the important issues that were raised during the meeting,

  1. All local boats, regardless of size, need to take safety as a high priority. Boats going out need to make sure they have spare fuel, a way to communicate with someone on land, safety equipment, spare water in case of an emergency and enough food to increase their chances of survival and return home. 
  1. During an emergency, all government departments and agencies need to communicate effectively to ensure the best possible outcome for those who may be lost at sea or in need of help. At the moment, the public emergency channel 16 maintained by the Pohnpei State government is not working correctly as the repeaters that allow for communicating further at sea are not all functioning.    The public emergency channel 16 needs to urgently be tested and expanded to allow boats to effectively communicate during an emergency and possible rescue, especially operations that take place over a wide area.  The Pohnpei Fishing Club has many boats and members are often out fishing when a distress call in is made but cannot effectively communicate with the Department of Public Safety as their radios operate on a private radio channel.
  1. The state government and non-governmental organizations need to work on establishing a set standard for what safety equipment should be on a boat when they go outside of the reef. One of the top items, besides a life jacket, was a location beacons  which is also commonly called  an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).  When activated, an EPIRB will inform the Coast Guard via satellite of a boat’s location so that rescue boats can quickly locate a boat in distress. In addition to the EPIRB, the safety equipment should include a radio, basic tools, flashlight, whistle, and a mirror.  The participants in the meeting agreed to develop a standard list of safety equipment that should be on all boats.
  1. The 2G phone network needs to be maintained by FSM Telecom. While the 3G/4G networks provide better service when near a cell phone tower, the 2G network’s signal goes almost twice as far.  Disabling the 2G phone network would severely limit fishermen’s ability to communicate both when they may need to be rescued or when there is a search for a fisherman in distress.

It was agreed by those presenting and participating in the meeting that more work needs to be done regarding safety at sea.  The club would like to thank all those who participated in the meeting, especially NORMA and it’s Executive Director, for progressing this issue of making fishing safer for everyone.

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