‘Deadliest Catch’: Why the Crab Pots May Be the Most Dangerous Part of the Job

by Taylor Cunningham

Of all the dangers that the cast of Deadliest Catch battles each day at sea, the most threatening may surprise you.

Crab fishing is notoriously one of the most harrowing professions around. While the crab season is relatively short, around 12 fishermen die each year worldwide.

To do the job, fishermen live on 128-feet steel boats that are constantly battered by the sub-zero waves of Alaska’s Bering Sea. While working, the crews are used to 60-knot winds that can cause 30-foot waves. And it’s not uncommon for fishermen to fall off the boats and lose their lives to the conditions.

But surprisingly, the weather doesn’t pose the biggest threat to people aboard the ships. Instead, the massive pots that capture the crustaceous gold mines do.

‘Deadliest Catch’ Lost a Crew Member to a Crab Pot Accident

The traps weigh an astounding 700 pounds on average. And the crews lower them into the sea with a hydraulic crane. After sitting on the ocean floor long enough to lure in a load of crabs, the boat lifts them back to the deck.

While the process seems simple enough, you have to take the rough waves and various other factors into account. The conditions can make it hard for fishermen to control the traps as they make their ascents. And if a wave hits the boat too hard, it can knock the traps off the crane altogether and send it sliding into crew members. In fact, this season on Deadliest Catch, a deckhand named Francis Katungin with Patricia Lee nearly died when a crab pot pinned and crushed him.

Luckily Katungin survived after the U.S. Coast Guard managed to rescue him via helicopter and rush him to a hospital. However, just one year prior, the same crew lost 30-year-old Todd Kochutin in a similar accident.

And the ropes used to maneuver the crab pots are an equally deadly part of the process, according to NBC News. When the pots are raised, the ropes have excess slack. And as the crews lower them into the water as the boat rocks, those ropes can sometimes wrap around fisherman’s legs and pull them into the waves. Aside from the obvious risk of drowning, people who hit the water can freeze to death within minutes.

As finally, those traps can also become a burden to the fishing boats by becoming too heavy to carry. Because Deadliest Catch is filmed during the coldest time of year, the metal tends to accumulate ice. And the traps can easily hold an extra 45 tons of weight due to freezing. When that happens, the distribution can cause the boat to top and capsize, which puts every person aboard at risk.