Making the Deadliest Catch Less Deadly – and More Sustainable
Snow crab are caught in ice-cold Alaskan waters of the Bering Sea. Operating since the 1950’s, competition in the fishery intensified in the 1990’s and was declared overfished in 1999. The government tried to regulate fishing through short seasons, which created a derby or race to fish. Along with legendarily tough weather conditions, the race for fish contributed to making the fishery one of the most dangerous in the world and the subject of the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. From 1991 to 2005 there were 80 fatalities in the fishery.
In 2005, the fishery implemented a catch share program where fishermen were distributed a share of the overall catch rather than racing against each other in ever-shortening seasons. Ending the race to fish made things safer, and in 2015 the Coast Guard reported zero operationally-related commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska.
The catch share program addressed derby fishing, high bycatch and associated discard mortality, safety, economic efficiency and product quality issues. The Snow crab stock has now been rebuilt and other crab populations are also doing well.