Since it's an incredibly dangerous job (there are around 300 out of 100,000 deaths per year, with fishermen unfortunately drowning or catching hypothermia at sea in such harsh climates), it shouldn't be too, too shocking that people are well-compensated for risking their lives. Sort of (we'll get to the specifics in a second).
And the crab fishing industry is lucrative. While this is just a snapshot, it's a pretty eye-opening one. According to a 2006 report from the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, 505 commercial Alaskan fishermen brought in over $127 million worth in crab loot. If that was evenly divided, it'd be $250,000 per person, but of course, things don't work out that way. Generally the boat owners and captains earn significantly higher wages. But let's talk Deadliest Catch.
How much do deckhands make on 'Deadliest Catch'?
According to a 2016 interview with former Deadliest Catch stars Gary and Kenny Ripka, deckhands can make around $150,000 to $170,000 a year. However, crab fishers don't really get paid a salary, they get paid based on their catch. And since crab fishing is seasonal (three months), it's not the most steady money.
“For crab seasons, deckhands can typically make anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 for a couple months of work,” Kenny said. Gary also said, “My guys this year, I think for 6 weeks...they made $30,000.”
Another source comes from the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers trade association. A spokesperson stated, “The information we have on crabbers’ income is anecdotal, but crewmen we surveyed said they’re making about $100,000 a year and captains twice that. That’s a lot more than a few years ago.”
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development stated that, “Wages are often based on a share or percentage of harvest earnings. Newcomer deckhand earnings range from 1.5% to 10% of the adjusted gross catch, depending on location and type of fishery and the skills the worker possesses." And it's also situational: some crab fishers can make $50 to $100 a day as a flat rate if they want to play it safe.
It wouldn't be shocking, for example, if more crab fishers chose a day rate this past year because COVID-19 decimated the crab fishing industry.
It's also important to note that there are a lot of costs that go along with crab fishing. You need to get a commercial fishing license, which costs about $60 if you're a resident and $165 for a non-resident. You also need to buy supplies, like sleeping bags, and appropriate clothes and shoes. This can cost $400 or more.
As expected, a profession like crab fishing is certainly no walk in the park. But if you watch the Deadliest Catch, then you already knew that.
Watch new episodes of Deadliest Catch every Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST on Discover Channel.