NEWPORT, Ore. – A series of one- and two-day classes starting in March aims to prepare fishermen, scientists and others who work at sea to survive the worst of what the marine environment can throw at them.

Organized by Oregon State University’s Sea Grant Extension program and taught by the U.S. Coast Guard, the workshops will also help commercial fishing vessels meet federal regulations requiring them to have at least one crew member on board certified in conducting at-sea safety and survival drills.

The classes are the latest in Sea Grant’s more than 20-year tradition of helping Oregon’s fishing fleet stay safer while at sea.

“The fishing community has always welcomed these kinds of opportunities for safety training,” said Kaety Hildenbrand, Sea Grant Extension agent in Lincoln County. “In recent years, other employers – universities, regulatory agencies, aquariums – have started to realize that when they send their people to sea, they need some basic safety and survival training, too.”

Commercial fishing has long been recognized as one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. The cold waters of the Pacific Ocean can be lethal when a crew member falls overboard or a vessel capsizes. While safety initiatives have improved the odds, Coast Guard estimates indicate that the fatality rate for commercial fishing vessels remains more than five times higher than that for other domestic commercial vessels.

In an effort to reduce injuries and deaths, federal vessel safety rules and guidelines have been revised and strengthened in recent years – with industry cooperation – to require fishing crews to conduct regular on-board drills in the use of safety procedures and equipment that can save their lives.

The two-day classes, taught by four instructors from the Coast Guard’s District 13 office in Portland, aim at preparing crew members to conduct those drills, and giving them hands-on experience working with a variety of safety equipment and procedures, from abandoning ship safely to how to don and wear the insulated immersion suits meant to keep capsized crew alive and afloat in frigid waters.

While there is a $50 deposit to reserve a spot in the commercial vessel safety classes, it is returned in full when the class is completed.

A second set of classes, each one day long, is directed at marine scientists, graduate students, aquarium specimen collectors and others who work at sea, but who likely have not had the formal training available to fishermen. The Coast Guard will teach these classes, too, for the first time; in the past, they’ve been conducted by community members.

“This is a less-intense version of the two-day course, but it still covers what they need to know to survive an emergency,” said Hildenbrand. “A lot of researchers haven’t had this kind of training, and universities and other employers are starting to require it.”

Two-day classes for commercial fishermen are scheduled March 8-9 in Newport, and March 20-21 in Tillamook. Pre-registration is required, along with a $50 deposit, refundable on completion of the course.

One-day classes for researchers, student research assistants and others will take place March 7, April 14, May 14, May 31 and June 20 in Newport. Pre-registration is required, along with a $25, non-refundable deposit.

To register or get more information about any of the classes, contact Kaety Hildenbrand at the Lincoln County Extension office in Newport, 541-574-6537 Ext. 27, or by e-mail to

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Kaety Hildenbrand,
541-574-6537, Ext. 27