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The U.S. Coast Guard’s Columbia River unit is beginning to crack down on fishermen who turn off their AIS to keep their location secret.

Operating “dark” is a common procedure in the Northwest’s coastal fisheries. AIS broadcasts a vessel’s position, and that is exactly what fishermen want to avoid: Their AIS track line gives away the locations where they’re setting their crab pots. By disabling AIS – one of the maritime industry’s best navigational safety tools  – they make themselves harder for other fishermen to track. This also elevates the risk of an unwanted interaction with merchant shipping, especially in heavy rain or fog.