National Fisherman

A crabber's life

How a Southern Californian became addicted to pursuit of the 'Deadliest Catch'

By Corey Arnold

It's happening again. After a 16-hour work day followed by a couple of grueling hours of chipping ice off the bow with a sledgehammer, the fingers on my left hand have frozen beyond a reasonable temperature for human flesh. Wet gloves now lie on the floor of the galley, and I hover over them in ice-layered oilskins with arms outstretched in front of the wall heater, awaiting the torturous flow of warm blood to arrive and expand my frozen vessels. Thawing is the worst part of the routine. It's a "getting your fingers pinched by a king crab" kind of pain, and the only comfort that keeps the eyes from tearing is knowing that it will all be over soon — yes, it will all be over soon.

Well, it's my own fault. I brought this pain upon myself. I chose to be a crab fisherman, so I should quit my silent sniveling and tighten up those bootstraps (whatever that means). Life doesn't have to be this way. It isn't as if my career choices are so dismal that I'm forced into the slavery of opilio crab fishing in Alaska year after year. I'm college educated, fairly intuitive, fairly strong, fairly ambitious — and yet here I stand at the moment, broken and shivering. I'm a crab fisherman working in an industry that the Discovery Channel labels "The World's Most Dangerous Job."

"How long are you going to be doing this?" my parents ask nervously every year, meaning: When are you going to start your real life? At times like this, I, too, question this job — this life. I dream of a warmer world void of icy seas cascading down my neck, irritable crewmates and herring chunks cemented to my face. A world where eight hours of sleep is unarguable — a world with soil, sun and fresh vegetables — a world with women!

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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