Summary: Fishing Vessel operators can benefit from properly displaying day shapes; this alert is intended to help fishermen understand the regulations.
February 22, 2008
SAFETY ALERT – FISHING VESSELS AND DAY SHAPES
Sector Juneau has recently noted widespread confusion in the Southeast Alaskan commercial fishing fleet regarding the construction and display of day shapes, which all commercial fishing vessels other than trollers must carry. The purpose of this safety alert is not to create a local policy on day shapes, but to draw attention to standards that already exist in the Navigation Rules. Navigation Rule 26 discusses fishing vessel day shape requirements, while Rule 3 explains that a troller is not considered to be a fishing vessel for the purposes of the rules. Details on day shape dimensions are in Annex I. The rules are available at
Displaying a day shape protects fishermen. The shape alerts other vessel operators to the fact that the vessel is engaged in fishing, making them more alert to the possibility that there is gear in the water that they may need to avoid. It also helps them to better anticipate the sometimes unusual maneuvering associated with fishing operations. In addition, the question of whether or not the fishing vessel properly displayed a day shape—and thus, complied with federal law—will likely come into question in any civil legal proceedings to recoup monies from gear that has been damaged by other vessels.
Day shapes should be displayed during the day when a fishing vessel is actively fishing. Day shapes should not be displayed when a vessel is simply underway and transiting from one place to another without any gear in the water. Sector Juneau Commercial Fishing Safety Examiners have noted that many fishing vessels carry permanently mounted day shapes. Sector Juneau recommends fishermen install a halyard or some other means of easily raising or retrieving these shapes.
A fishing day shape consists of two black cones connected at their apexes like an hourglass. On vessels that are 65ft (20 meters) long or longer, the shape should be at least 4ft high (2ft per cone) and 2ft wide at each end (across the diameter of each cone’s base). Many fishing vessels have day shapes made of black netting, though other materials are acceptable.
Note that vessels operating at night (from sunset to sunrise) and in limited visibility must display special lights when fishing. The lights serve much the same purpose as day shapes. More information about the requirements for lights can be found in Rule 26 of the Navigation Rules.
Coast Guard Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiners welcome any questions fishermen may have about day shapes or any other regulatory issue. For more information, contact my Commercial Fishing Vessel Coordinator Tim Clepper in Ketchikan at 907-225-4406 or Larry Snyder in Juneau at 907-463-2448.