At work on
Alaska's Factory Trawlers
Big Fishing
The tactic was cynical and misleading: The issues weren’t germane to one another – not least because fat and happy Hershel was a California sea lion, a thriving breed – and in any case, claims of declining Steller sea lion populations in the North Pacific were disputed by reputable scientific data and anecdotal evidence… Duh.  I got the impression that the simple act of mentioning such incongruities reeked of boorishness and unseemly naïveté, and our cappuccino was only being served before Penny breezily blew me off: “The ends justify the means.” 

In interviewing the local coordinator for fisheries activities, Greenpeace, as a policy it seemed, did not recognize the breed of fisherman represented by Pete: Factory trawlers were “bad” for the marine environment, and therefore those who captained them were by degrees bad fishermen, period.  The fisheries management council was a “good ol’ boys” insiders club, its science was “tainted” – industrial fishing was just plain bad.  Conceding that markets for the annual harvests exist for a reason, that people need to eat and commercial fishing was a necessary link in the food chain, the Greenpeace solution to reduce pressure on the resources was by rescaling the industry along the lines of the “traditional Alaskan model”: fishing boats (small independent businesses, “mom-and-pop operations”) delivering their catch to dockside processing plants.  Such plants already were being built in Dutch Harbor and farther out the Aleutian Chain, so that part of the vision was falling right into place! 

She spoke of an environmentally correct Bering Sea fisheries as a place I had known fifteen years before, pulling web on a purse seiner in pacific Prince William Sound.  Dutch Harbor as Ketchikan – that is a stretch.  Most everything she said was a stretch, I concluded, and by the time our cups were drained she clearly regarded me as a hostile reporter, simply because I asked what I thought were pretty obvious questions and questioned her dogmatic answers;  ends justifying means does not absolve dishonesty and deception, in my opinion.  Meanwhile, I walked away with the impression that she was a hostile spokesperson, troubled about the sort of reporters that she considers friendly.  

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The first images are the crew's mess on the Island Enterprise. Built from the keel up as a modern factory boat, the Island is spacious from the crew's quarters to the cafeteria to the bridge. Even the factory is well-lit and ventilated; the crew exists in relative comfort, and the ship's morale is friendly in the manner of college dormitories.

In stark contrast is the Seattle Enterprise, a converted oil supply ship with poor ventilation and a factory with machinery crammed, if ingeniously, into a wet, swampy space with low ceilings and bad light. Yet you find crews signing onto the Seattle before the Island because the crew is smaller in relation to the amount of fish the ship can harvest and process, which makes the crew share - i.e. the paycheck - at the end of the tour that much bigger.

Right column toward the bottom, digital scanning doesn't do justice to the kid's face; below him, can you spot the feet?
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The freezer holds filled with "product," the machinery bestilled and cleaned, and the nets stowed, the Island's crew has a day or more with practically nothing to do as their ship heads for its working port, Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, amid the Aleutian Chain between the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

(The deck crew in the hot tub are actually from the Pacific Glacier - a ship with a high return rate of factory workers, too.
6. Between shifts

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> 7. Dutch Harbor