Nautical News: For the week of January 15th, 2012

PLAN TO MOVE NOAA TO INTERIOR DEPARTMENT

President Obama announced on Friday a plan to shake up and streamline federal departments and agencies. As part of that, he wants to move NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from under the control of the Commerce Department to the Department of Interior. That move, of course, would include the National Marine Fisheries Service which is controlled by NOAA. One of the reasons given for the move is that NOAA makes up more than 50 percent of the Commerce Department’s budget. However, one of the problems with the move is that it pits the fisheries against the oil and gas companies. It is the Department of Interior that issues the permits for oil and gas exploration.


GROUNDED CRUISE SHIP CAPSIZES OFF COAST OF ITALY

The Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, ran aground and capsized off the coast of Tuscany, Italy, leaving at least three dead and 40 people lost. Passengers described the scene as being like in the movie Titanic. Lifeboats were inaccessible because the cruise ship was on its side. They had to crawl along upended hallways and cabins to reach safety. It was reported that there were about 3,200 passengers and 1000 crew on board. Most of the passengers were from Italy, Germany, and France, but “Nautical Talk Radio” has learned that there were also passengers from New England on board.


FISH FRAUD HEARING HELD IN MASSACHUSETTS

A public hearing was held at the State House in Boston regarding fish fraud and the mislabeling of fish. The state is considering using DNA technology and bar codes as part of its program to assure that seafood being sold in retail outlets and restaurants is what is being advertised. Representative James Cantwell testified at the hearing that Massachusetts fishermen land approximately 500 million dollars worth of seafood products annually. Cantwell urged the importance of protecting their livelihoods by ensuring all seafood products sold within the state are properly labeled. The report in the Boston Globe and told on Nautical Talk Radio by its co-author Beth Daley revealed that 40% of the fish filets sold in Massachusetts was either intentionally or unwittingly sold as something different than what it really was.


ANNUAL BOATING FATALITIES RELEASED BY COAST GUARD

The Coast Guard released the latest boating fatality statistics for 2011. Recreational boating and paddling fatalities on waters in the Northeast have remained nearly the same for the second year in a row. The 1st Coast Guard District recorded a total of 51 deaths during 2011. That compares to 50 fatalities in 2009 and 51 fatalities in 2010. Capsizing or falling overboard while not wearing a life jacket were the main factors resulting in fatalities. In 2011, boating fatalities were divided between 29 deaths on motorized vessels and 22 deaths on non-motorized vessels like kayaks and canoes. Unfortunately, paddle boat fatalities in the Northeast were nearly double the national average.


FORMER CHIEF NOAA LAW AGENT ASSIGNED DESK JOB

Word has finally come out that the former head of law enforcement for NOAA fisheries, Dale Jones, is now re-assigned to a desk job. His new duties are to organize, streamline, and standardize NOAA’s data management. Ironically, while he was NOAA’s chief law enforcement agent, Jones streamlining ability came to light after he shredded documents while being investigated by the U.S. Inspector General. You might recall that Jones was condoned and encouraged his fellow NOAA agents to issue unfair and excessive fines to New England fishermen. After millions of dollars paid to NOAA couldn’t be accounted for, and after NOAA agents took junkets around the world, Senator Scott Brown at a hearing in Boston asked a top NOAA official what it would take for a NOAA worker to be fired. Apparently civil service rules made it difficult to terminate Jones. For months after the IG’s investigation concluded, Jones’ employment and position at NOAA was kept a secret.


CHINESE INVESTORS BUY FERRETTI YACHT GROUP

In the business world of boating, Chinese investors announced that they reached agreements with the major creditors of Ferretti Group and will take over the Italian boatbuilder. The Ferretti Group claimed to be the world’s largest luxury yacht builder and had a global supply chain that included more than 800 suppliers and 2000 employees. Its eight yacht brands included such famous names as Bertram, Pershing, Riva, Mochi Craft, and Ferretti Yachts. The Chinese said that their business plan would be accomplished in 5 years. They see China as one of the most rapidly developing emerging market for yachts.


MULTIPLE COAST GUARD BOATS ASSIST FISHING BOAT OFF MAINE

Multiple Coast Guard boats assisted a disabled fishing vessel and safely towed it to Gloucester. The four person crew on the 75 foot fishing boat named Bulldog called the Coast Guard around noon time on Friday after they became disabled 20 miles off the coast of Maine in heavy seas. A 47 foot motor life boat from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth New Hampshire was sent to the Bulldog, but the sea and wind and size of the Bulldog were too much for the Coast Guard boat to tow it back to shore. The 210 foot Coast Guard Cutter Dependable, based in Cape May, New Jersey was diverted from its mission in Cape Cod Bay and sent to the Bulldog. The Dependable arrived on scene around midnight and towed the Bulldog to a location near Gloucester. A smaller Cutter, the 87 foot Cutter Flyingfish, assumed the tow from Dependable around 9:30 on Saturday morning and continued the tow from there. There were no reports of any injuries.


BOATERS WHO LOST DRIVERS LICENSE WIN LAWSUIT

States that suspend automobile drivers’ licenses for boaters who have been convicted of boating under the influence might want to pay attention to what a California Superior Court judge has ruled. California is paying $5.6 million to settle a class action lawsuit because of it suspended the driving privileges of people convicted of boating under the influence. The case stems from the 2005 arrest and conviction of a man for boating under the influence who had his automobile driver’s license suspended and was required to attend a class on alcohol addiction. He brought a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated in that he was subject to unequal treatment under the law. He claimed that people who did not have an automobile driver’s license did not face the same penalties as those who did. The California Superior Court agreed, and after several appeals by California, the state will now divide the 5.6 million dollar settlement amongst the 753 boaters who had their automobile driving licenses suspended for operating a boat under the influence.


ACTIVISTS BOARD JAPANESE WHALING SHIP

The Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group said three Australian activists were being held as “prisoners” by the Japanese harpoon fleet after they snuck on board one of the whaling ships under the cover of darkness. The Sea Shepherd Society said it had helped the three men from the Forest Rescue Australia environmental group to board the Shonan Maru No 2. So far, no one has been injured in this incident, and there was no damage done to the Japanese ship. Forest Rescue said it was “making a stand to assist Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in their campaign to end illegal whale poaching in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.” Commercial whaling is banned under an international treaty but Japan has since 1987 used a loophole to carry out “lethal research” in the name of science – a practice condemned by environmentalists and anti-whaling nations.


COAST GUARD DEFENDS FREIGHTERS AGAINST OCCUPY GROUP

Closer to home, violent “Occupy” protesters accompanied by longshore union members have caused President Obama to order the Coast Guard to protect the grain ships docked at the Port of Longview in the state of Washington. The Occupiers were previously successful in shutting down all the ports along the West Coast a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Coast Guard will intervene. The ships in Longview are supposed to transport grain to Asia. Latest word from Longview is the local unions and “Occupy” groups are planning to confront the Coast Guard as the grain is loaded on to the ship.


NEW YORK BOAT SHOW ATTENDANCE DOWN 10%

And last on today’s nautical news, producers of last week’s New York Boat Show reported that attendance was down 10 percent compared to last year. Some blamed the New York Giants playoff game on Sunday afternoon for the drop in attendance while others blamed the unseasonably mild 66 degree weather where people preferred outdoor activities. Other spins put on the drop in attendance blamed the internet, the dates of the show, the economy, and someone even blamed former President Bush. Seems that Bush gets blamed for everything these days.


About John Shea