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Land an Alaskan Crab Fishing Job

Updated on March 26, 2015

Crabbing is the most significant of Alaska’s shellfish industries, and an important part of the local economy. Plenty of jobs are available to adventurers willing to pay their dues in the fishing industry.

Be warned that landlubbers need not apply. It takes a special breed of fisherman to tame the icy shores of Alaska during crabbing season. Due to the adventuresome spirit required, the industry brings high rewards. It has been called one of the last great gold rushes on earth, as the waters are home to the highly sought after, delectable culinary delight known as Alaskan crab. To restaurant goers, it’s valued as high as caviar or vintage French wine.

During the crab boom of the 80s, the top fisheries produced 200 million pounds (90.9 million kilos) of crab. The wealth was well distributed among everyone involved unlike bureaucratic corporations that practically employ slave labour. Captains brought home in excess of $150k during the season. Crew members got a cut often over $80k. Soon, even the boats themselves started to show the excess. Vessels were fitted with hi-fi stereo systems, VCRs, microwaves, saunas and other retro bounties impressive for the time.

Kodiak crew during King crab season.
Kodiak crew during King crab season.

Getting a Job as a Deckhand

Young bucks considering a life a sea have a shot at landing it big in crabbing, but only after some experience has been acquired. Working on boat during the winter can be dangerous and it certainly isn’t a place for green hopefuls. The best way to get started is to spend the summer months fishing for salmon. This way you can find out if the lifestyle is for you plus gain the experience required for crab fishing.

You won’t be making the type of money today as you would have in 1981. Still, the pay is great. Especially when you consider that only six months of work is required. It’s not unusual for deckhands to make over $50k during the fishing season. Once the warm weather rolls around you have the option of getting involved with something else, such as salmon fishing, or lounging in the sun. Not many professions provide that level of flexibility. Of course you’ll also have to bear in mind that there won’t be much time for leisure during the winter months.

Notes on Crabbing

Most of the crabbing fleet is located around the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak Island, the Bering Sea, and Dutch Harbor. Here three main species of crab are harvested: King, Tanner and Dungeness crab.

Since King crab demands the highest price it maintains top priority. However since the 1983 disaster in which there was no harvest whatsoever, numbers have declined drastically in recent years. Tanner crabs (aka “Snow crabs”) became more popular to pick up the slack but have also seen a major crash. The third type that is commercially harvested is the Dungeness crab. It makes up a small portion of the annual haul of crab because it doesn’t usually demand a high price.

Dangers to Be Aware Of

If you’re the type that likes to play it safe, look elsewhere. Crab fishing is a particularly risky job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked commercial fishing in general as the occupation with the highest fatality rate with 141.7 per 100,000, beating out pilots, flight engineers and loggers. Statically 80 percent of the deaths are caused by drowning or hypothermia due to the freezing climate. In addition, the heavy machinery and gears on crab ships can cause serious injuries.

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    • GearHead2012 profile image

      GearHead2012 6 years ago

      i love watching the deadliest catch on netflix!

      this was a great hub

    • profile image

      sleversea 7 years ago

      actually iwant to know followings

      1.how should i know about vacencies of fishing boats?

      2.what are the requirements to tahe employment visa to alaska(i'm srilankan)?

      3.is nthere any jobs during off season?