Crab Fishing finally safer…but still deadly

Because of the 2007 King crab season opening on Monday, October 15th, several articles have popped up recently on crab fishing, safety, and crab rationalization. Wesley Loy of the Anchorage Daily News has written a fairly detailed one outlining the reasons why crab fishing has finally become safer. While some think that crab rationalization made fishing safer, others point out that the US CoastGuard has worked on reducing risk for years. The fact that the fleet of crab fishing vessels has been reduced by 60 percent or so undoubtedly has also improved the safety record.   But before people start spouting off that crab fishing is safe…remember that there’s still no getting around it that crab fishing in the Bering sea, while bone crushing 800 pound crab pots bang around the decks right next to the men who fish for King and Opilio crab in the dead of winter, is extremely dangerous. And while it’s fairly undocumented, there’s no erasing the history of this deadly trade and the lives lost while working it.  The haunting dedication by Spike Walker in his ever popular novel, “Working On the Edge”, tells it all … “In the hope that the youthful tide adventuring north each year may know the perils awaiting them. And that the slaughter may end.”

  Deadly commercial crab fishery getting safer

CRAB FLEET: No deaths reported in three years for Bering Sea crabbers.
Alaska’s deadliest catch — the Bering Sea commercial crab fishery — isn’t so deadly anymore.

No crabbers have died in nearly three years, and the death rate this decade is a far cry from the carnage seen through the 1990s, when 70 were killed, figures from the U.S. Coast Guard show.

“This is a really cool story,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Chris Woodley, who worked for years to improve safety in the crab fleet. “I don’t think people realize how much things have changed.”

Monday kicks off a new crabbing season, with dozens of boats expected to sail out of Dutch Harbor and other ports in pursuit of enormous Bristol Bay red king crab, a regal item on restaurant menus.

The king crab fishery is one of Alaska’s most valuable seafood catches, worth at least $53 million at the docks last season. The catch limit is up 31 percent this year to 20.4 million pounds.

Another major harvest, snow crab, won’t start in earnest until January.

Alaska crabbing used to be an obscure trade in which taut young men stood an equal chance of flying home rich or in a box. Today, people all over the country know crab captains and crewmen by name, voyaging vicariously aboard wave-battered boats by watching the top-rated Discovery Channel reality show “Deadliest Catch.”

The show’s cameras will be aboard several crab boats again this season.

Charlie Medlicott, a Coast Guard vessel safety examiner, was in Dutch Harbor on Friday, walking the docks and checking boats loading heavy steel crab traps onto their decks.

“I was telling the Discovery Channel guys the other day, ‘You guys calling this show the “Deadliest Catch,” you’re wrong.’ There are other fisheries around the country that have higher fatality rates,” Medlicott said.

Read the rest after the jump

This entry was posted in Crab Fisheries, Crab Fishing, Crabbing History, Deadliest Catch 4, Dutch Harbor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Crab Fishing finally safer…but still deadly

  1. Jen says:

    I still think it’s the deadliest. The Bering Sea is rougher, colder and a lot deadlier than other parts of the world. With the ice, the waves and the storms, I just don’t buy that other professions surpass the dangerous aspects of crab fishing.
    BUT commercial fishing of any kind is dangerous. Married to an ex-drag fisherman, I can say he makes me shudder with his stories of rogue waves, equipment injuries and lack of sleep.
    There might be other professions with higher fatalities (my husband is a crane operator now. Construction isn’t all that safe) but none of them are located on the unpredictable ocean.

  2. Lothian says:

    Well said, Jen. It’s like they are having a giant “pee” contest over who has the most dangerous job. Who cares what profession is the MOST deadliest? The fact is, these men and women risk their lives everyday and live on the edge every minute. They should all be commended — fishing, construction, trucking, you name it.

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