I’ve worked for National Fisherman and taken a vested interest in the safety of U.S. commercial fishing crew members for just over a decade. In that short time, the industry’s safety record has improved significantly — both in terms of losses at sea as well as long-term injuries. Much of that success is thanks to federal and nonprofit safety training efforts. Program leaders across the country have worked diligently to make sure their agendas are user friendly and accessible to fishermen with erratic schedules, and also to tailor them to the fishermen in the region where the trainings are being held.
There are some events, however, from which no amount of training or safety gear can save you. I believe the crew of the F/V Destination experienced one of those events with the disappearance of the Bering Sea crabber in the early morning hours of Feb. 11.
By all accounts, the crew was experienced — a group of six friends, many of whom had long fished together, working a meticulously maintained boat. They had spent the night before dining with friends in Dutch Harbor. No one knew it would be their last meal. That is the kind of catastrophe that lurks at the foamy edges of every minute at sea for every commercial fisherman, but it is particularly pervasive for fishermen working in the far reaches of freezing waters. Survival depends entirely on reaction time. Is there time to get into survival suits? To deploy a life raft? Is anyone close enough to help?
Sometimes the answers to all of these questions is simply no. And the world turns upside down.
The ocean’s beneficent bounty twists into malevolent supremacy without warning. She gives and she takes with such ease. This is why we are drawn to her and why you continue to ply this trade despite, or perhaps because of, her unpredictable disposition.
Words cannot express the sorrow with which I report an event like this. I think constantly of the families of those lost — Jeff Hathaway, captain; Larry O’Grady, engineer; Charles Glenn Jones; Kai Hamik; Raymond Vincler; and Darrik Seibold.
Some of the families have set up donation sites, and the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial is always a welcome home for donors who wish to help defray the costs of safety training and support educational scholarships for the children and partners of fishermen lost at sea.
We will not forget the crew of the Destination. May they be received lovingly and with honor into the next world.