Alaska Sea Grant partners in marine safety instructor training


Rescue helicopter procedures were part of the curriculum at the USCG Sitka air station. Torie Baker and AMSEA’s Jerry Dzugan and Rick Petersen were the trainers.

An Alaska state trooper, commercial fishermen and a ferry boat captain were among those who received marine safety instructor training in Sitka last month.

Alaska Sea Grant’s Torie Baker helped teach 13 students during a five-day, fully participatory class in the Southeast Alaska coastal community.

Some will become commercial fishing vessel safety drill conductors certified by the Coast Guard, and others will teach cold water safety, K-12 safety, ergonomics, and vessel stability—all programs offered by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA.)

AMSEA, a close long-time partner with Alaska Sea Grant, has trained 1,700 marine safety instructors since 1995. Baker has been an AMSEA instructor since 2003.

“The most satisfying part of the teaching was seeing the variety and amazing skill levels of all these marine practitioners,” said Baker. “Also our visit to the Sitka USCG flight rescue station and spending time with those consummate professionals was terrific.”

Besides the trooper, fishermen and ferry captain, others receiving the training were AMSEA employees, a VISTA volunteer, a NOAA fisheries observer and two 4H outdoor leadership instructors.

Individuals and their organizations pay for the instructor training, which is offered twice a year in Sitka and Seward. For commercial fishermen seeking instructor certification, some tuition support is available.

Since the 1980s there has been more than a 76% decrease in commercial fishing deaths, but 2017 has experienced a significant increase in fatalities.

“This was a very tough year here in Prince William Sound, for the Bering Sea communities and up in the Bering Strait,” said Baker.

“Alaska marine fatalities have decreased through training and improved safety equipment. Training saves lives, so that’s why we are so passionate about it,” she said.

Most Marine Advisory agents have completed the AMSEA instructor safety training.