Reeling in commercial fishing dangers


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    Crewman Joe Hinton works the stack on the fishing vessel "Reliance" during a storm in the Bering Sea, which took down four boats in four days during the opilio crab fishery in February 1994. Only one crewman lost his life, which was considered very fortunate. The Bering Sea is known for having the worst storms in the world. Crab fishing in the Bering Sea is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

    - Karen Ducey

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    Fighting 50 knot winds and freezing conditions, skipper of the fishing vessel "Kiska Sea", Mike Wilson, uses a shovel to break ice and rid the boat of over two feet of ice while fishing for opilio crab in the Bering Sea. Crab fishing in the Bering Sea is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

    - Karen Ducey

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    Breaking through the icey waters, the fishing vessel "Kiska Sea" fishes for opilio crab in the arctic ice pack of the Bering Sea, which is known for having the worst storms in the world.

    - Karen Ducey

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    Dennis Scholl pears out of the fish hold after he iced it on the cod fishing boat "Sea Spider" in Dutch Harbor, Alaska in 1993. This boat supplies cod which is used as bait to the crab fishermen in the Bering Sea.

    - Karen Ducey/karenducey.com

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    Aboard the deck of the F/V Big Valley, crewmen Eric Grumpke runs the hydrolics next to the crab coiler which bears a picture of Barbara Stanwyck, star of the television show that is the boat's namesake, while the boat is in King Cove, Alaska preparing for the red king crab season on October 29, 1993. Grumpke drove the crane that shifted gear and equipment on deck.

    - Karen Ducey/karenducey.com

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    Crewmen Larry Murphy climbs along the side of "the stack" on the fishing vessel "Kiska Sea" as it fishes for opilio crab in the arctic ice floes of the Bering Sea in January and February of 1995. With pancake ice below death by hypothermia would be certain were he to fall overboard. Crab pots weighing approximately 700 pounds are stacked one on top of the other. During the 1990's the pot limit was 250 for larger vessels such as this one.

    - Karen Ducey / karenducey.com

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    Crewmen Larry Murphy (left) and Steve McElroy prepare a crab pot to be dropped overboard onboard the fishing vessel "Kiska Sea" during the opilio crab fishing season in the Bering Sea in January and February of 1995. The Bering Sea is known for having the worst storms in the world. The boat is covered with ice caused by "freezing spray" a phenomena whereby sea spray freezes on impact of hitting something.

    - Karen Ducey / karenducey.com

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    Crewman Jeff Newton braces as a wave splashes over the side of the crab fishing vessel "Kiska Sea" as it fishes for opilio crab in the Bering Sea in January and February of 1995. Also known as freezing spray, waves and wet sea air slam into the boat freezing on impact causing ice to cover the boat. Newton is carrying a sledgehammer which he is using to beat the ice off the sides of the boat. Boats covered in ice become top heavy and are in danger of rolling over.

    - Karen Ducey / karenducey.com

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    A pot of opilio crab is emptied onboard the fishing vessel "Kiska Sea" as it fishes for opilio crab in the arctic ice pack of the Bering Sea in January and February of 1995. The Bering Sea is known for having the worst storms in the world. Nights are long and cold in the arctic in the winter.

    - Karen Ducey / karenducey.com

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    Deckhands onboard the fishing vessel "Maverick" beat ice off the bow with ice picks and sledgehammers as they fish for opilio crab in the Bering Sea in January 1993. Ice forms on the boat when waves crash over and freeze immediately.

    - Karen Ducey/karenducey.com

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    Steadying themselves on the pitching, water-sloshed deck, two crewmen from the Polar Lady move a sorting table loaded with Opilio crab. Even as the boats battle 30-foot (9-meter) waves and heavy gales the crew must hoist, stack, move, and empty pots.

    - Karen Ducey/karenducey.com

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    Crewmen are exhausted on board the fishing vessel "Arctic Dawn" during an opilio crab fishing season in the he Bering Sea in January 1994. Crewmen sort out the juvenile crab and females and throw them back into the sea as a way of preserving future stocks.

    - Karen Ducey/karenducey.com

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    Crab fishing in the Bering Sea is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The Discovery Channel produced a TV series called "The Deadliest Catch" which popularized this sustainable fishery managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

    - Karen Ducey/karenducey.com

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The Bureau of Labor Statistics comes out with statistics today on workplace fatality rates for 2009. If it's anything like years past, commercial fishing will be among the most dangerous professions. There may be a few ways to protect fishermen from danger, but some say the measures soak profits.

Reporter Janet Babin has more.


JANET BABIN: One thing that makes this line of work so dicey is the frenzy surrounding the catch. In many fisheries, the minute the season opens, boats race to reel in as many fish as they can.

Photographer Karen Duceycrabbed under this system in Alaska's Bering Sea.

KAREN DUCEY: You would work around the clock, and you would work like 100 miles an hour -- I think we'd get about four hours of sleep a night. That's where the danger element would come in because you're exhausted.

Alaska's fisheries have since switched to what's called a "Catch Share Quota system."

Kate Bonzon with the Environmental Defense Fund wants all U.S. fisheries to use this type of quota system.

KATE BONZON: Catch shares provide fisherman with a secure access to a certain amount of fish, and it allows them to be a lot more flexible about when they go fish.

Bonzon says catch shares reduce fatalities, and stabilize fish stocks. Some fishermen complain the system nibbles away at their profits and curbs the adventure associated with the profession.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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