The hero in my upcoming debut novel, Rudy Taylor, trained as an observer biologist after he graduated from college with a marine studies biology degree. The training translated into work aboard a catcher processor in the Bering Sea.
Observers on the fishing boats are placed there by a government agency to ensure the catch is what the fishers claim it to be—usually pollack, whiting, or cod—and not a hundred other species mixed in. Observer biologists can work twelve to sixteen hours a day when the boat is stopped at a fishing site.
Catcher processors are the largest boats operating out of Dutch Harbor and often considered the safest. Accidents do happen, though, and ships catch fire, spring a leak, or have engine failure. Smaller boats, like trawlers, look to these larger crafts for rescue in the event of a wreck or an overpowering storm. Winds off the Bering Sea can be fierce and topple the strongest fisher.
These vessels are designed to perform all the tasks of preserving fish. The catch is hauled aboard, inspected, processed, frozen, and stored, guaranteeing the freshest possible product to deliver to waiting consumers. Surimi, minced fish used to make imitation crab and fish fillets, is also made onboard.
Working, sleeping, and eating are often the only activities afforded by the tough work schedule. A break in the regimen is a welcomed reprieve and many take advantage of the lounge where crew members can read, relax, or watch DVD movies. Food is plentiful. Cooks work round the clock to accommodate the appetites of those involved in the strenuous, physical demands of the job.
Sleeping quarters vary from one ship to the next. Some sleep two to a room, others four. Often crewmembers are assigned a room by shifts where one bunkmate is on duty while the other is sleeping. Each person has his own bunk space and keeps his survival suit at the ready. Safety measures are strictly enforced and practiced routinely. No drugs or alcohol are allowed on ship.
What results is well-paid employment, a sense of adventure, and memories that will last a lifetime. Photos by Jonathan Lee
My debut novel, An Anchor On Her Heart, releases August 1. Pre-order is now available on Amazon books.