Modern, smart, and well-spoken, Capt. Keith Colburn of the F/V Wizard elaborates on the diversity of work a fisherman does when he’s not fishing,out at sea, including taking a recent trip to Washington DC to discuss the potential upcoming oil drilling exploration in the Bering sea area–which by the way–has been halted for further studies, as of April 17th.
Captain Keith Colburn owns and skippers the Wizard, one of the larger vessels in the series. We had a chance to talk with him by phone while he was finishing up a promotional tour for the season premiere. Be sure to check out his website and blog which includes a full history of The Wizard as well has his recent testimony before Congress to discuss the impacts offshore oil drilling could have on the fisheries around the Aleutian Islands.
Captain Keith is on the cutting edge in many respects: he’s a blogging crabber, he has a love for modern communications equipment, he sees the effects of global warming firsthand and is sensitive to them, and he’s doing his part in an effort to mitigate the effects of global warming and preserve the environment by educating people and politicians about how fisheries work.
LAist: We noticed you were in Washing DC to testify before Congress
Captain Keith: I was testifying about oil exploration on the outer continental shelf. I’m not completely opposed to offshore oil exploration but there are sensitive areas including the bay in which I fish.
LAist: “Deadliest Catch” is all about the immediacy of being out on the boat and fishing
but there’s a lot more to it than that isn’t there?
Captain Keith: We are out on the water fishing for 6 months out of the year so I have a lot of people say to me, “Oh wow, you get 6 months off” and that just isn’t the case. In the off season we have a lot of administrative work: licensing, permitting, getting the boat ready, and for some of us we take the next step – we get into the politics of the fisheries. You don’t just throw your line in the water and hope you catch something. There is a very complex set of regulations around the fishery and I’m very involved in that.
LAist: Right now the country is in a huge downturn economically. How is this affecting you?
Captain Keith: We’re exposed to the elements and everything else out in the water but we are also exposed to this whole financial situation as well. It takes a lot of money to go out on the water and that has definitely affected the fishery. It’s not just limited to the US, over 50% of what we catch is sold overseas and if there is some kind of economic situation outside of the US, that affects us as well. What we do have going for us is that this is good food, good protein, seafood, wild caught, and people really want to eat it – this is perhaps one of the ways we are sheltered unlike other industries.
LAist: You don’t really get any kind of government help though, like dairy farms or corn producers?
Captain Keith: There is absolutely no protection for us, no subsidies. There is no one there to bail us out, the only people to bail us out are the crew when we take on a bit of water.
LAist: So I’ll be writing this up for a blog on the internet, what kind of access to communications do you have?
Captain Keith: During my career of 24 years, we’ve gone from the difficulty of getting your position on the water using radio and other older instruments to using GPS, I also have email capabilities, phone capabilities, and a kind of a walkie-talkie communication with anyone on the mainland. It depends upon what you’re willing to spend – we could really plunk down a lot of money to improve them even more, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. The Bering Sea used to be this infinite body of water but it’s become much smaller because of developments in technology over the last decade and a half…