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Responders Celebrate Successful Response, Partnerships in Final F/V Aleutian Isle Incident Debrief

NOV. 7, 2022 — The Office of Response and Restoration recently participated in the final of four multi-agency hotwashes to debrief the F/V Aleutian Isle sinking incident that occurred in the San Juan Islands in the state of Washington.

A fishing vessel on its side.
The fishing vessel Aleutian Isle was successfully lifted to the surface Sept. 17, 2022. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.

The incident began on Aug. 13, when the purse seiner Aleutian Isle, containing 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel, sank 200 yards off the coast of San Juan Island and near a common transit route of the federally endangered Southern Resident killer whale. The sinking initiated an international response that would last 42 days and become the first Type 2 incident (requiring regional and/or national resources) for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in 15 years. 

The hotwash included responders from the Coast Guard, OR&R's Emergency Response Division, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Ecology, San Juan County, and contract responders and salvagers, with the intent on celebrating the successes of the response and improving response measures for future incidents in the Pacific Northwest.

During this response, OR&R's Northwest scientific support coordinator and Northwest regional response officer provided 42 days of support to the Coast Guard with technical scientific advising of currents, weather, transboundary communications with Canadian partners, endangered species, fishing net debris, while navigating political and public interest. These two put their scientific coordination skills to the test as they most noticeably:

A poster of a vessel being pulled up from the sea floor.
A thank you poster from the citizens of San Juan County, Washington to the responders.
  • Coordinated daily and extended spot weather forecasts of the incident site with the National Weather Service,
  • Recognized the critical need to bring in NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources Division to provide expert advice on the deterrence of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales,
  • Coordinated with NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services to develop a current prediction model to accurately predict the currents in the San Juan Islands in order to provide slack current windows for safe dive operations on the vessel,
  • Coordinated with the OR&R scientific support team to provide over 14 potential oil spill trajectories in an effort to deploy the proper geographic response plans to protect critical habitats and resources,
  • Provided updates and briefings to staff from relevant congressional offices and members of the media.

The response was an outstanding collaboration between multiple NOAA, federal, tribal, state, and local agencies to identify a significant threat to a sensitive area, and showcased the dedication our responders have in the Pacific Northwest to protecting natural resources. 

The hotwash that occurred on Oct. 28 was the final of four hotwashes, and responses and ideas from each meeting will be compiled into a Coast Guard After-Action Report. 

Last updated Monday, November 21, 2022 11:34am PST