Alaska factory trawlers are combination fishing ships and seafood processing factories - a two-bit
description that cannot begin to portray the sheer scale of every aspect of the operation. Everything about the
industry is big, superlative. For instance, the ships' business takes place in the certified World's Most
Dangerous Work Environment, the Bering Sea.
Ranging usually from 200 to 300 feet long, each ship with every "tow" catches 80 to 200+ tons of fish,
usually Alaska Pollock. Just what do such numbers actually mean?
This photo shows a 180-ton "cod end" - for scale, note the deckhand in the yellow hat, towards the
bottom-left of the picture. He prepares to deploy the trawl lying beside the full-to-bursting "sausage" just
retrieved: the fishing never, ever stops.
The Pacific Glacier will haul its nets aboard six to eight times a day for the better part of two months -
do the math, it's a bit mind-blowing. A lot of fish, and a lot of pressure on the crew, soft parts of the
machinery, who at the end of their two-month contract to work 16-hour days, expect to go home with
seriously big paychecks in pocket.
Big Fishing was produced in 2003-4, and is based on images mainly made 15 years before then, though you can bet
they are totally up-to-date. In the left-side column over the following 6 pages, you are invited to read a very brief
(2,000-word) history of the amazing Alaska factory trawler industry, lifted from chapter 6 of my forthcoming book,
Pie in the Sky - which actually doesn't have a lot to do with fish...