The captain’s notebooks: Chronicling five decades on the Bering Sea

Trying to outwit killer whales, fights aboard 300-foot factory trawlers, falling overboard, waves in the wheelhouse — lots of fish stories stem from a life at sea. A new book titled “Chronicles of a Bering Sea Captain” captures five decades of fishing in the Bering Sea.

The motivation for the book came from a health scare 20 years ago at sea, says author Jake Jacobsen.

“The thought struck me that I have six kids and they know very little about what I have done out at sea, and I wanted to leave some stories for them,” he said.

Jacobsen began jotting down stories in fits and starts, put them down for about a decade, and became inspired again when he came upon old notebooks and photos.

One of Jacobsen’s favorite stories describes trying to outwit killer whales — what he calls “the most organized and intelligent adversaries” — from robbing fish from longline hooks.

“You try and develop strategies,” he said. “You cut your line, anchor it off, run away for a while and stop the engines and then come back. The whales leave sentries around at your strings, and then they call each other. So you can’t get very far hauling gear again because here come the whales.”

Jacobsen said in writing the book he also wanted to correct misconceptions people might have about fishing the Bering Sea.

“It’s hard and dangerous work and we are very competitive, but I want people to understand about sustainable fisheries,” he said. “When I tell these stories about staying up for three days in a row without sleep, we are not talking about decimating the resource. We are talking about a fishery that takes a small percentage of the available biomass, and it is all controlled by the best science available. In Alaska we are very proud of the sustainable seafood program we have.”

Find Chronicles of a Bering Sea Captain at Amazon, and more information at www.beringseacaptain.com/

About the author

Laine Welch is an independent Kodiak, Alaska-based fisheries journalist. Click here to send her an email.

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