Staff from The Vegan Insider spoke with a professional crabber (we’ll call him Steve) to get the inside scoop on the crabbing industry.
First, Steve notes that many fishermen turn to drugs to cope with the long hours and brutal work. “Short days are 8-10 hours. Long days are 12-24 hours. That doesn’t include the 6-7 hour drive we take to get to the dock.”
He continues, saying, “A lot of people become tweaks too. Trying to keep up with hours, they turn to heroin and meth and cocaine. Before our boatmate cut off his hand, he was a druggie. He’d do [hard] drugs right on the boat while we crabbed.” When asked about his boatmates hand getting cut off, he replied, “A lot of fishermen get their hands mashed, they get caught in this thing and become unusable,” (though, in this particular case, it happened off the boat).
Further, Steve confided that they get a lot jellyfish all over their faces and it burns their eyes really bad. On top of that, on most boats, you have to poop in a bucket. Professional crabbing isn’t for the faint of heart and it certainly isn’t “easy money.” It’s important to reflect on the harsh reality that faces crabbers and fishermen when disucssing the issue.
When asked about the other sea life and birds, Steve reported, “We have to separate the females and the males [crabs]. We throw out bait and seagulls come and we would [sometimes] throw the older, larger females at the seagulls and try to knock them out.”
He continued, “Last trip, we caught 3 seagulls in this big salmon net. We broke their necks and put them in the crab pots for bait.” It’s not just crabs and fish that are impacted by crabbing. “I hear a lot of people shoot seals, during the salmon season a lot of people shoot the seals with a shotgun because they steal the fish and it’s a lot of money they steal. Some people shoot them year-round though, just for fun but our boat doesn’t do that.”
“We catch lingcod, halibut, squids, jellyfish, rockfish in the crab pots. We throw most fish back; if they’re small we’ll just put a bait pin through their eye and clip them to the crab pot.”
Coronavirus Impacts Crabbing
“We’re getting paid half as much because they can’t export to china and china is a huge buyer of crabs. Currently, we’re getting paid $4 instead of $8 per pound. Last trip we caught 500 pounds, but that’s really crappy. This year, we’re averaging around 800-1200 pounds per trip and this a crappy season.”
“We might lose our buyer. We don’t know why for sure, but we think it’s because of the coronavirus and not being able to export to China. If that happens, we won’t be able to fish and we won’t have jobs until the coronavirus blows over and buyers are buying again. Or at least we won’t be making money.”
Are Crabbers Bad People?
It’s easy as vegans to be so mad about the price of crab. Fisherman, as a whole, are extremely disrespectful to the wildlife. With one small boat pulling in 1200 pounds of crab, plus jellyfish, squid, and other fish, over a few day span in an OFF season, imagine the impacts of the worldwide fishing industry on the oceans and wildlife. It’s hard to fathom.
But, these people are not “bad” people. For the most part, they’re hard-working people trying to make an honest living. And as we’re seeing by the impacts of the coronavirus and losing our ability to export to China, when the demand is lost, the job is lost. So long as there is demand, there will be fishermen working to meet it.
What can we do to make an impact?
Crab is a bit of a delicacy for many. It’s used a lot in fine-dining and sushi. If we can change the public view of crab, we can make a massive difference. If we can get high-end restaurants and chefs to stop supporting the use of crab, the public may follow-suit.