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Fishing Families

What does it take to make a living at sea, or to wait at home for a loved one who does?

The Oregon Dungeness crab season is due to open on December 1st, depending on the success of negotiations between fishermen and processors about the price for the catch.

Fishing still calls on a certain wildness. There is an element of luck which appeals to the gambler in all of us: many catches are very valuable, and a good day can leave each individual on a commercial fishing boat thousands of dollars richer. There is the appeal of using your physical strength and your cunning to hunt down your prey. And then, there is the call of the sea itself…

But the sea can be very dangerous — especially for crab fishermen. A recent study showed that between 2000 and 2006, Oregon’s fleet lost 23 vessels and 43 crew members during the Dungeness crab season, ranking it as the real “deadliest catch” — even more so than the famously perilous Alaskan crab fisheries. One of those vessels, the Nesika, capsized in 2001, killing all four men on board. Michele Longo Eder, the mother of one of those men, has just published a memoir about that time. She’ll join us the for the hour on Tuesday.

Do you fish at sea, or wait at home for a loved one who does? What is it that keeps people in the profession despite the dangers? And what are the prospects for the industry as fish stocks decline and smaller, independent boats come under pressure?

Photo credit: T Fish / Flickr / Creative Commons

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