Protecting the Pacific Northwest
One of the busiest parts of the search and rescue year for the Sector Columbia River operating area revolves around the Buoy 10 fishing season. This state regulated salmon season uses the Columbia River Buoy #10 as a fishing/no fishing line of demarcation. Historically this has caused great numbers of recreational boaters to crowd the imaginary line near Buoy 10 while trolling or drifting for the popular fish. Station Cape Disappointment and Air Station Astoria as well as other local agencies have typically responded to serious reports of distress too often involving loss of life during this fishery. The treacherous Columbia bar combined with limits involved in the rules (days, locations, maximum catch) sometimes lead boaters into situations or places they are unprepared for. With this in mind, the Coast Guard took on an aggressive public education program to reach recreational boaters in the lower Columbia River from August through September. Working with other local agencies and relying heavily on our volunteer arm, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Coast Guard has sought to directly contact boaters before they commence their voyage to share safety information and recommendations relating to the local area. This group of volunteers has become known as the Buoy 10 Task Force.
Last year, this group of dedicated volunteers managed to contact more than 13,000 boaters in the span of 35 days. The dedication of Auxiliary members is the main reason for the success of this program in getting information out to the boating public about the dangers of the season, and has resulted in lowering cases of emergency Search and Rescue, as well as a notable increase in wear of Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs).
During Buoy 10, Auxiliarists at area boat ramps distribute information packages to boaters, and speak to them about the dangers of the area and the importance of wearing PFDs. They also explain the information we place in all the bags, as well as emergency contact procedures, highlighting important phone numbers and radio frequencies. It is the single most eventful time of year, and provides an excellent opportunity to contact thousands of boaters and enhance overall safety on the water.
Since this project began fiver years ago, the number of deaths during the Buoy 10 Salmon fishery has decreased dramatically. In 2001, seven people died. In 2002 and 2003, the number was reduced to one each year. In 2004 there were no fatalities and only one in 2005. 2006 brought another year with no fatalities on the river.
Please take a look at the links below for an invitation to participate in this important effort. This operation could not happen with out the hard work and dedication of our Coast Guard Auxiliary members. Your time spent at the ramps directly effect the safety of the boating public. We are looking forward to this year’s operation and hope to have a very successful Buoy 10 season. Those who wish to help this year need to get in contact with the project officer or Sector Auxiliary Liaison. The Buoy 10 project officer phone number is (503) 861-6120. When the final list of names has been compiled you will be contacted by a representative from either the Oregon flotilla or the Washington flotilla with hotel and ramp information. They will be your direct POC for questions or concerns that may arise.