New Rule Requires Commercial Fishermen to Mask at all Times

By Jessica Hathaway.

The U.S. Coast Guard has interpreted a CDC guideline intended to protect the public as well as transportation workers to include commercial fishing vessels. The language of the Marine Safety Bulletin issued on Feb. 1 requires the wearing of masks at all times in U.S. waters on all commercial vessels.

“Conveyance operators must use best efforts to ensure that any person on the conveyance wears a mask when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel.”

I inquired as to the inclusion of commercial fishing vessels in this rule and was advised by the Coast Guard that fishing vessels are included under the rule “at this time.”

This language makes perfect sense for ferry operators, tour boats, cruise ships, and even charter vessels where crew and the public intermingle. In fact, the guideline was created to support President Biden’s executive order 13998, which was clearly written to enforce masks on public and commercial modes of transportation.

However, commercial fishing boats are not like other commercial vessels and often straddle the line between private and public. Many commercial fishing crews have gone out of their way to quarantine together or to work as a pod to reduce risk of infection or transmission of covid-19.