It doesn’t get much shittier.

I just read an AP story about a floating processing vessel that is on fire in the water north of Dutch Harbor. For those of you who don’t know the fishing industry, let’s do a brief run through of the glamour of life at sea. To enrich the presentation, I will include (in bold) quotes from the Glacier Fish Company website (they’re the ones with a boat on fire).

*Fishing vessels roam around finding and “harvesting” seafood (usually fish).

*Processing vessels buy the fish and “process” it. This usually means heading and gutting the larger species, pulling eggs skeins for the roe market, then packing the fish for shipment – vacumn sealed, canned, frozen, etc. The vessel on fire is a floating fish processing plant which, according to their website, deals primarily in pollock. Chances are your fish and chips, your fast food fish filet sandwich or your frozen fishsticks are all pollock.

Workers live on these boats in the middle of the ocean for two or three months at a time. Here is some more employment information from the website:

“It is the responsibility of all out of area candidates to provide their own lodging and transportation to and from Seattle, Washington … Employees are responsible for providing their own clothes, suitable for factory work, raingear and boots, … and all personal items such as a sleeping bag, towels, and toiletries … Living conditions lack privacy and you must be able to handle the diverse environment onboard our vessels while under contract.

“Glacier Fish Company pays all crewmembers on a crew share basis and does not guarantee a minimum wage. (with the exception of salmon processing) All pay is based on a percentage of the fish caught and processed.”

” Processor contracts are on a trip by trip basis and each will vary in length. Typically, lengths of employment range between 60 and 90 days. Employees who do not successfully complete their contracts will have the cost of their air fair to Seattle deducted from their settlement check, as well as a charge for missing offload.”

“Processing work requires above average physical condition, stamina and the ability to perform repetitive tasks for extended periods of time.”

“Processors must be capable of working long and variable work shifts for extended periods of time. Shifts typically range from 12 to 18 hours with periodic breaks depending on work demands, production requirements, and availability of fish and travel schedules. The work is strenuous and sometimes hazardous, with the vessel operating under all types of weather conditions.”

So you buy everything yourself, work long repetitive hours in the Bering Sea in February (that’s not glassy sea) in tight non-private quarters with no real option to leave. Awesome! Why haven’t I signed on for this?

Oh yeah. Also it’s on fire.

Advertisements