‘Deadliest Catch’: How Does the Crew Count the Crab Behind the Scenes?

by Courtney Blackann

Fans of “Deadliest Catch” know the drama between the crew members. Of course, there’s the taxing weather and deadly swells. There’s the excitement that builds as a huge haul of king crab is lugged overboard. Further, the show captures the greenhorn deckhands that get sick and can’t hack it. However, there’s one thing that isn’t overly displayed – counting crabs.

So how do they do it? The nets are always seemingly filled with crabs, making the guys cheer in delight. But the process that goes into sorting and counting crabs is actually quite lengthy.

After the crabs are pulled on board, there’s a behind the scenes crew that works to sort them out. There are several factors that go into this. First, sorters have to make sure that each crab is large enough to keep and sell.

The crabs are laid out on a sorting table and the workers begin to go through them one-by-one with a measuring stick to make sure the crabs are good to keep. Additionally, each sorter has to throw back all female crabs. They have to be returned to the water in order to grow and breed. Only male crabs can be kept.

However, it’s fairly easy to identify the difference between a female and male crab and can be done quickly. Female crabs have identifying markers on their underside which are wider than male crabs. This quick visual inspection determines whether the shellfish stay or go.

After the crabs are sorted and measured, they’re counted. This part is where it gets lengthy. Counting each crab in a huge haul can literally take hours and hours.

However, in order to get paid, someone has to do it.

‘Deadliest Catch’ Battles Frigid Cold

Maneuvering around a rocking boat is no easy feat. “Deadliest Catch” crews are no strangers to tough conditions out on the Bering Sea. The region is already harsh, even on calm days, but add in a storm and things can go south pretty quickly.

Several captains have opened up about the dangers of weather – including the bitter cold which can become life-threatening.

“The Bering Sea likes to eat boats, smash crew members,” says Deadliest Catch Captain David Lethin.

During a nasty winter storm, this saying only intensifies. Despite these threats, it’s part of the job. And when quota needs to be filled, the crew has to go. Several raging winter storms have been cause for some scarier-than-usual moments aboard the “Deadliest Catch” vessels.

In the case of the F/V Destination, a winter storm turned fatal. The boat was weighted down with hundreds of thousands of pounds of ice as the captain raced the storm to return home. He never made it. The captain and his entire crew perished in the storm. It’s believed the Destination capsized under the weight of the ice.