At work on
Alaska's Factory Trawlers
Big Fishing
Without enforced regulation, a bad fisherman will snatch from the sea every fish that he can.  A bad fisherman drags “roller-gear”, trawls weighted on the lower lip with car wheels that plow the seabed, swallowing dense schools of Alaska Pollock balled-up there in daylight hours, while incidentally obliterating the floor of the marine habitat.  A bad fisherman is so relentless a competitor that for two calm weeks, he won’t stop fishing half-an-hour to transfer an agonized crewman with a crushed hand ballooned double-size (diagnosing mere “carpal-tunnel syndrome”) to a ship bound for port.  Man and nature present certain rules of conduct on the open seas: A bad fisherman not only pushes the envelope, as any fisherman will, but skews it gladly every chance he can get away with it.  There is a name for a bad fisherman – Larry. 

Larry is a mean little bastard and people know it.  He cares about nothing more than his personal profit, and if the amount of by-catch and just crap in his tows can make even his deck crew cringe, what the fuck, he makes a lot of tows in a day and keeps his factory turning at maximum production.  He earns a lotta money for the company, which owns his ship, and so he knows there’s always a captain’s job waiting and crew lined up to work on his boats.  And if you don't like it, well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, Jack!  

There’s a good fisherman, too – Pete, also a highlining skipper for the same company, whose cod ends are clean and crews healthy.  That the walls of his home, as he tells, are hung with Edward Curtis lithographs serves as a metaphor for a professional guy seriously concerned about the ocean habitat, who is respectful of its myriad natural and manmade complexities, and abhors the notion that any fisherman would fish himself out of a job.

Pete advocates strong resource management, and believes that in spite of the Doughnut Hole calamity, the steering council of government, science, and industry, established by Congress in 1976 under the aegis of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was managing the North Pacific fisheries well-enough.  The big problems, he says, would start soon, rumored to be within months, when the new foreign-backed American companies with their new Japanese-style mega-factory trawlers arrived in the Bering Sea;  if quotas did not subsequently rise to compensate for the added competitive pressures, the industry would not be sustainable and some companies would be going bust. 


The "slime line" is often viewed as one of the more desirable work areas because it is a bit quieter, there's less cold water and whatever spraying around, there are no very sharp blades whirling just inches from your precious digits. It smells a bit queer, and pulling roe from decapitated fishes' bellies is slimy - roe per-ounce is the highest-valued part of any fish.

Some view the slime line as really unpleasant work. But numbing monotony is much less dangerous to your physical health, freeing the mind to wander far and wide...
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Freezers - damn cold!  Then again, >
a higher pay rate.




At the end of every production line, the "product" - be it blocks of fillets, a chunky goo destined for fish sticks, or smooth pudding-y "soylent white" that will become the artifical crab and shrimp meat called surimi, an Asian staple - is first flash-frozen at minus-40 F, before being boxed at stowed in the vast freezer holds in the forward section of the vessel.
4. Slime Line

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