Fuel spill closes commercial fishing in Nushagak District
The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Thursday announced the closure of commercial fishing near Dillingham after fuel from a sunken vessel began to spread.
As of noon Thursday, July 26, commercial fishing in the Nushagak District near Dillingham is closed until further notice.
Fish and Game staff flew over the site of the sunken vessel near Clark's Point and reported observing fuel pooling in the tide rips; the fuel is likely to spread across Nushagak Bay, back toward Dillingham due to wind patterns.
"We have a zero tolerance policy in the state. Hopefully, everything will be taken care of and we can plug the vents so we won’t have to worry about it much longer. We’re coming off a record run in Bristol Bay (60 million salmon) and we want to get back in the water as soon as possible," said Fish and Game biologist Tim Sands.
The Department of Environmental Conservation said the sunken vessel had up to 800 gallons of fuel, diesel and hydraulic, on board when it sank, though it's not yet clear how much has leaked.
The significant chance for gear and fish being exposed to fuel prompted to closure. Authorities warned subsistence fishers on Dillingham beaches should be aware of the potential for their gear and fish to be contaminated.
"We will continue to monitor the situation and consider reopening commercial fishing when there is no longer a danger of contamination," Fish and Game said in a release Thursday.
The U.S. Coast Guard Wednesday suspended a search for a crewman reported missing from the overturned fishing vessel. The missing man was identified as Juneauite John Phillips, 59.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said Phillips was not wearing a life vest when he was last seen.
Two others survived the sinking-- a 31-year-old Petersburg resident, Jeb Phillips, and a teenage boy; they were picked up by good Samaritans on a nearby vessel.
Steve Quinn contributed to this report.
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