‘Deadliest Catch’ Captain Sig Hansen Opens Up on the Fatalities of Fishing the Bering Sea

by Amy Myers
(Photo by Jean-Erick PASQUIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

With 33 years of experience, Deadliest Catch captain Sig Hansen understands the kinds of dangers that an angler can encounter on the Bering Sea. The treacherous waves and ice-covered machinery can claim a life at any time with little warning. Regardless, these fearless men and women still load themselves onto their vessels every king crab and snow crab season, braving long days and sleepless nights to bring in their share of the yearly quota.

More than just a way to make money, this lifestyle becomes engrained in their makeup. But, as the stars of Deadliest Catch know, no fisherman is invincible.

Recently, Hansen spoke with New Zealand Fishing News regarding the number of anglers that lose their lives to the job every year. He explained just what kinds of conditions claim so many hardworking men and women.

“I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head, but it seems like there is always a fatality,” the Deadliest Catch star shared. “Every year there is something that goes wrong – it is fishing, and they are extreme conditions. A lot of it is due to the weather. A problem with Alaska is that you have this shallow shelf that drops off to a couple of thousand fathoms. This forms very tall, close-together waves on the shelf, and these are the problem – they do so much damage because they are so close together. A lot of the times the boats are loaded with crab pots, so they are already top-heavy.”

In 2016, Hansen has almost fallen victim to the dangerous conditions on his vessel, himself. While on the Northwestern, the vessel burst into flames. Thankfully, though, the captain kept calm and followed safety procedures to put out the flames.

‘Deadliest Catch’ Star Says His Crew Can Fish in ‘Pretty Extreme Conditions’

Of course, like any job with occupational hazards, the cast of Deadliest Catch has learned which types of conditions are still fishable and which types are grounds for cancellation. For the Northwestern captain, one of the most important factors is consistency among his crew.

 “On our boat we have been able to fish some pretty extreme conditions, and one of the reasons is that we have the same crew, which makes it safer,” Hansen explained. “I’m so familiar with the boat that I can operate it much better than a skipper who had never been on it before – it’s one of those things – you can feel it. Forty or 50 knots is pretty normal, and I’ll fish through 60 or 70 knots, depending on the wave heights, then we will really have to take a look at it.”

“But it’s all in the eye of the beholder – my fifty knots may be your sixty, if that is fair to say,” he continued. “We don’t push the envelope; it depends on who is working the boat and how the seas are.”