Coast Guard works to keep crabbers safe before season opener

CHARLESTON, Ore. - Around this time every year, crab boat captain Doug Kayser can't wait to get out on the water.

Kayser, like many other local crabbers, is preparing for the opening of crab season on December 1, and that includes, making sure his vessel and safety equipment is ready for the extreme conditions.

"We have the Coast Guard come down and make sure we're in compliance," says Kayser.

Kayser is one of about 45 crabbers on the South Coast that takes advantage of the Coast Guards voluntary 'Operation Safe Crab Program.'

"We try to get out on board the vessels before the actual crab season opener while the operators are getting their boats ready and take a look at this equipment," says Lt. John Dixon.

Lt. Dixon heads up 'Operation Safe Crab' in the Charleston area.

He and his team act as an extra set of eyes for crabbers, checking life rafts, safety suits, and emergency radio beacons to make sure they are all up to date.

"They're very busy getting their boats ready, getting their gear ready and some smaller things get overlooked. In the event that a boat does go down or has a casualty, this can definitely save their lives," says Lt. Dixon.

But it's not just the Coast Guard trying to encourage safety among crabbers.

This year, Englund Marine Supply in Charleston has teamed up with the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission to promote a new type of inflatable life vest, to be used on vessels.

And the reason they're promoting the vest this crabbing season is because if a crabber were knocked unconscious and fell into the water, the vest would still inflate on its own.

"The vest works on a hydrostatic release mechanism. When this is submerged about six inches in the water, it will automatically inflate," says Englund Marine Supply Manager Mark Fleck.

Fleck adds, their main goal is to prevent deaths out on the water.

"We're trying to put safety in their minds before they go and this is one way to do it."

As for Kayser, he says because safety is top of mind, he's prepared for whatever mother nature throws at him this season.
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