New Navigation Charts to Improve Northern Fishermen Safety

Navigating the often treacherous waters of Cobscook Bay will soon be easier thanks to an updated nautical chart issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

The new map created by the federal agency includes a detailed illustration of the waters around Falls Island, where fishing vessels encounter some of the earth’s highest tidal ranges, currents, and treacherous conditions. The region has been the site of numerous fishing industry fatalities in recent years.

The new data was recorded by a NOAA Coast Survey navigation response team at the request of area fishermen, U.S. Senator Susan Collins and former Senator Olympia Snowe. Significant nautical survey work had not been done on much of the Bay since the 1800s.

“This is a very positive development for this region,” said State Senator David Burns (R-Washington).  “Fishing is an inherently dangerous occupation, and anything we can do to improve safety will help those who navigate these waters. Since 1990, seven local fishing boats have had loss of life of one or more fishermen in these waters. In 2009 there were five fishermen lost in the Bay. We all knew something had to be done to help save lives and these navigational aids will help greatly.”

Before the work began, Commander Lawrence Krepp, Chief of the NOAA Navigation Response Team, said nautical surveys are usually prioritized according to commercial tonnage and the highest risk of environmental or economic disaster if the chart data is not up-to-date. In this case, he said, “Loss of life brought us here.”

The new chart became available on September 3, 2013 as a “print-on-demand” chart. Traditional paper charts will be available for purchase from chart vendors in October.