Thursday, July 23, 2009

To Catch (and Cook) a Crab

To be honest, I have little patience for foods like crab that make you work so hard for their rewards. I am a big fan of crab meat, just not the work it involves. However, I guess it's an important skill to have in the kitchen, so this slideshow from the Guardian is an invaluable resource.

Crab is not only a challenge in the kitchen, it's one of the hardest creatures to catch. Fans of The Deadliest Catch, a show on the Discovery Channel, know it as the most dangerous job in the world.

Statistics show that 128 per 100,000 Alaskan fishermen perished on the job in 2007, 26 times the national average -- of these fishermen, crab men have it particularly bad.

From "How Stuff Works:"
Crab fishing involves dropping 800-pound steel cages, called crab pots, into select areas of the Bering Sea where specific crab species, such as king crab, live. Fishermen cover the traps with herring meat as bait, and the crabs climb up a ramp to get the food, then fall into the bottom of the pot where they can't escape. Fishermen leave these pots in the water for a day or two to allow them to fill up, then haul in their load.

Crab pots and crab pot launchers are common sources of injuries. Fishermen get caught up in the coil lines. Working at the edge of the boat also puts them at risk of being swept off the deck and falling overboard.

A wintertime Bering Sea injects a heavy dose of danger into the job. While salmon fishing season, for example, falls between June and September, crab fishing takes place in spurts between October and January. The icy waters threaten hypothermia and storms grow more frequent during that time of year. The brief season zips by so quickly, the haste of the catch can also contribute to a high fatality rate. And if you get hurt on the boat, no one can drive you to a hospital. To add to the mental strain of an 18- to 20-hour shift, Alaskan winter days may be dark except for a few hours.

With the environmental odds stacked against them, what keeps people coming back to crab fishing, season after season? Many sail the blue waters in search of the green. Business Week magazine named crab fishing the "Worst Job with the Best Pay," with fishermen cashing out as much as $50,000 for a few days work catching king crab and even more for snow crab [source: Miller].

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