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The Salary of an Alaskan King and Snow Crab Catcher

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The brave minority of American fishermen who face the Alaskan crab fishery seeking both King and Snow crab command a significantly higher than average wage among their fishermen peers, due to the higher risk nature of the deep sea cold arctic fishing conditions. Crab fishermen may work at fishing off-season in different coastal areas catching other types of species like fish, due to the crab fishing season for either species lasting only a small portion of the year.

What Working as a Crab Fisherman Entails

Working as a crab fisherman means long hard hours on the deck of a boat, often wet and exposed to what the US Bureau of Labor Statistics calls “some of the most hazardous conditions in the work force”. Most crab fishermen start their career as “greenhorn” deckhands and acquire workplace skills via on-the-job training. It is an important note that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010 and 2011 edition, the overall career outlook for fishermen makes it an occupation with moderate declines predicted.

Educational Background Required for Crab Fishermen

A prospective crab fishermen has a few different ways to enter the workforce. Many start the job simply by asking around on the docks of towns where crab fishing or packing is prevalent. However, candidates looking to stand out from the crowd can enroll in a two-year associate or technical vocational courses geared towards the fishery profession. Fishermen with experience in other areas of fishing may benefit from short-term workshops to prep them for the rigorous demands specific to catching crab. The captains and officers of crab fishing ships need licenses issued by the Coast Guard, and must fulfill various training requirements as outlined by the Coast Guard, such as skill and general knowledge testing. A background in mechanical engineering can be an alternate path to a career as a crab fisherman, since crab fishing boats always need technicians to keep the ship at peak operating condition during the short and highly intense fishing season.

Entry-level and Best in Field Earnings as a Crab Fisherman

The earnings of a crab fisherman vary widely between the newest members of the crew and the captains of the fishing boats themselves. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which does not track crab fishing statistics in a special category outside of regular fishing, the low-end annual income of a fisherman in the lowest grossing 10 percent is $16,000 annually. However, given the condensed crab catching season, this statistic may not reflect the actual reality of what is paid to the lowest level deck hand. Earners in the highest 10 percent of the industry earn more than $45,000 annually. It is important to note that crab fishing operates on a higher risk condensed work season. Thus, Bloomberg Business Week reports crab fishermen can earn between $50,000 and $100,000 each during the short season, provided the catch is good and their performances are acceptable.

Average Salaries for American Fishermen

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average fisherman in the middle 50 percent of the earnings recorded earnings between $19,030 and $30,000 annually; however, crab fishermen, due to the hiring potential of their specific niche within the fishing industry, are more likely to approach the higher end of the $45,000 earnings spectrum as reported. The Discovery Channel documentary series entitled “Deadliest Catch” goes into great detail about the highly volatile nature of both the work and earnings of American crab fishermen, and makes for good extended research for anyone considering a career in the field.


Daniel R. Mueller is a Canadian who has been writing professionally since 2003. Mueller's writing draws on his extensive experience in the private security field. He also has a professional background in the information-technology industry as a support technician. Much of Mueller's writing has focused on the subjects of business and economics.

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