Written by Jen Finn
An enterprising crabber offers tourists a gull's eye view
By Susan Chambers
Nine years in the wheelhouse of a Bering Sea crabber is a long time to think about a way to bring commercial fishing to life for the non-crabbing folk.
The culmination of those thoughts — turning an honest-to-goodness, wave-battered, king crab-catching vessel into a tourist business — collided with the burgeoning popularity of "Deadliest Catch," the Discovery Channel's most-watched TV show.
"At that time, I saw the vision to take people out commercial fishing out of Ketchikan," says David Lethin, skipper of the Aleutian Ballad and owner of the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour. "I would look at the ocean. I would look at the crew. I kept thinking, 'If you could just bring that to life...'"
Lethin admits it was an off-the-wall idea, but one that already has paid off in terms of customer approval. Lethin and the crew of the Aleutian Ballad began taking up to 150 visitors per trip. From Ketto nearby Annette Island in July — and showing them the thrills of catching king crab, Dungeness crab, octopus, longlining for blackcod, halibut and rockfish and the natural beauty of Southeast Alaska.
So far, only a couple people have called Bering Sea veteran Lethin crazy, though one did say he's "sold out."
But Lethin's fishing career reads like the career of many a highliner, but with a new twist to the most recent chapter: Chapter 1: Dream of fishing. Chapter 2: Deckhand. Chapter 3: Buy a boat. Chapter 4: Buy a bigger boat. Chapter 5: Build an even bigger boat. Chapter 6: Put your quota and other boats to work, build on the popularity of the "Deadliest Catch" and run a tourist business.
Lethin's idea of taking a solid player in the Bering Sea crab fishery and turning it into a tour business — on the face of it — may seem crazy or a "sellout" to some.
But it doesn't take long for the Aleutian Ballad's owner to convince anyone that the vessel's new job description means two things: It could be a money maker in a more stable business than crab fishing and it could provide a platform from which to share the adventure of commercial fishing with the public.
National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15
In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.
National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15
In this episode:
March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received
NMFS announced two changes in regulations that apply to federal fishing permit holders starting Aug. 26.
First, they have eliminated the requirement for vessel owners to submit “did not fish” reports for the months or weeks when their vessel was not fishing.
Some of the restrictions for upgrading vessels listed on federal fishing permits have also been removed.Read more...
Alaskans will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, when he visits Juneau next week and will ask him to support an international review of mine developments in northwest British Columbia, upstream from Southeast Alaska along the Taku, Stikine and Unuk transboundary rivers.
Some Alaska fishing and environmental groups believe an international review is the best way to develop specific, binding commitments to ensure clean water, salmon, jobs and traditional and customary practices are not harmed by British Columbia mines and that adequate financial assurances are in place up front to cover long-term monitoring and compensation for damages.Read more...