‘Deadliest Catch’: Sig Hansen Explains How a Different ‘Quota’ Hasn’t Changed the Need for Speed

by Taylor Cunningham

In an attempt to make the Deadliest Catch crabbing industry less deadly, fishermen no longer have a shared quota. But the new rules haven’t changed the need for speed.

Captain Sig Hansen has been leading a crew on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch for ten years. So he’s seen a lot of change in the industry, especially when it comes to fishing quotas. As the captain explained to The Fishing Website, the heavily competitive nature of crab fishing caused deadly conditions in the past. So they had to tweak the rules of the game in order to save lives.

When Sig first started working on the Bering Sea, there was a combined crab quota for all fishermen. And once the overall limit was reached, crab season was over. So each captain had to work fast in order to catch as many crabs as possible. But that meant that fleets were also working in dangerous weather conditions in order to cash in.

“Up until two years ago, we had a competitive quota, forcing us to fish in nearly all conditions or miss out,” he shared. “The season might only last 70 or 80 hours.”

During crab season, the temperature of the Bearing Sea is a frigid three degrees. If someone falls overboard, they can only live for two minutes without a survival suit. Over the past 15 years, 67 fishermen have been killed while working. And according to The Fishing Website, that means that at least one person has died each week.

The ‘Deadlist Catch’ Captains Now Have Personal Quotas So Fleets Don’t Have to Work in Deadly Conditions

With so many deaths at sea, the crabbing industry realized it had to change the rules. So instead of giving everyone a single quota to share, each captain was given an individual quota. And the changeup made it less tempting to brave the elements.

“It was supposed to make things safer for us,” Sig Hansen continued. “And it has in that we know we can stop now if the weather is extreme.”

But individual quotas didn’t slow the speed of the job. The Deadliest Catch captain said his fleet still has to race back to shore after filling their pot in order to get the crabs to the processors on time. So while crab fishing has definitely become safer over the past couple of years, fishermen still have safety issues. Because of time constraints, the crews can’t completely bow out when the water is treacherous.

“The processors and the market have so much control over the industry that the small windows of time are still there,” he said. “We were supposed to have a larger window of time to deliver at more leisure, but that hasn’t happened.”