Laying of Under Sea Fiber Optic Cable Scheduled to Commence August 5, 1998

Attention Commercial Fisherman

A new fiber optic submarine cable called the Alaska United Fiber System is being installed. This system will connect three points in Alaska (Whittier, Valdez, and Juneau) to Norma Beach in Puget Sound, Washington. The system is owned by GCI and is being installed by Tyco Submarine Systems, Ltd. Drawings and coordinates of the planned route are available from the GCI and Tyco contacts listed below. We are asking that fishermen move fixed fishing gear such as longlines, gillnets and pots at least one mile from the cable route during installation. In inshore waters and restricted areas we ask that fishermen communicate via VHF radio with the cableship and keep fixed gear at least 1 mile away from the cable route for at least 2 miles ahead of, and 2 miles astern of, the cableship. We also ask that you keep trawls, dredges and other mobile bottom fishing gear at least one mile from the cable in order to avoid possible damage to the cable and/or your gear and vessel.

The majority of this telecommunications cable will be laid in deep water off the continental slope. The scheduled installation for shallower segments is shown below. Please note that weather and other factors could cause schedule changes. Updated schedule information may be obtained by calling toll-free 1 888 442-8662.

Segment Estimated Dates
Whittier to Valdez, Alaska September 1 – September 15, 1998
Whittier to continental Slope September 11 – October 2, 1998
Juneau to continental Slope October 3 – October 20, 1998
Puget Sound to continental Slope October 27 – November 20, 1998

This cable, like all other active cables on the North Pacific shelf, will be buried as soon as possible and wherever possible down to water depths of 600 fathoms, to minimize any potential conflict with commercial fishing. In rocky places it may be impossible to bury. It is possible that the final installed route of the cable will vary slightly from the positions shown on this flyer. The final installed positions will be made available within 4 months after installation and well in advance of the 1999 fishing season.

The U.S. Submarine Cable Act prohibits fishing within one mile of a vessel installing or repairing subsea cables. In addition, a fisherman can be held liable for flagrant fishing practices that disrupt cable service once it has been installed. GCI will do its part to educate the fleet, commercial fishing associations and chart-makers of the specific location of the cable. However, GCI is interested in preventing willful disregard and damage to the cable, and will act accordingly.

If your gear does snag something you think may be a cable, please don’t try to lift it. After some initial slack is taken up, it may become extremely hard to lift, and this could threaten your vessel’s stability. Furthermore, active cables may carry up to 10,000 volts of electricity. IF YOU SUSPECT THAT YOUR GEAR IS SNAGGED ON THE ALASKA UNITED FIBER SYSTEM CABLE, PLEASE NOTIFY TYCO SUBMARINE SYSTEMS LIMITED OR GCI BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 1 888 442-8662.

GCI will create a policy to compensate any fisherman, using prudent fishing practices, who loses gear due to the placement of the cable. This policy will be created to ensure that compensation is quick and equitable to fishermen.

Fishing vessels are advised not to cross immediately astern of a ship which is laying cable. Submarine cables take some time to settle onto the seabed after laying. By day a working cableship displays the following signals: Two black spheres in a vertical line with a black diamond between them. By night a working cableship displays red-white-red lights in a vertical line visible all around. It is also important to keep well clear of cable buoys marking breaks, installation or repairs, because the cable is likely to be slack or in suspension, and hence more likely to be fouled by fishing gear, for a considerable distance from the buoy. Cable buoys are yellow with a yellow light showing at night. A person or vessel that damages a cable willfully or negligently may be liable.

Submarine cables carry more than 75% of all overseas voice, fax, data and internet communications. Cables generally offer better speed, reliability and security than satellites. The Alaska United Fiber System can carry more than 120,000 simultaneous telephone, fax, or data calls. A cable break typically costs more than one million dollars to fix. This cost must ultimately be paid by the users of telephone and internet services.

More information about the system can be obtained by calling 1-888-442-8662 or from the internet at