Last week saw the return of the sobering, yet enthralling Deadliest Catch (repeated 8.00pm, Discovery Channel, 9 September). The real life drama of the crews fishing the treacherous Bering Sea during the Opilio crab season was played out against a soundtrack of American rock and its characters presented as minor celebrities. But that didn’t detract from the very real dangers Keith, Andy and Phil exposed themselves and their crew to in their race to meet their delivery deadline.
Ignoring dire weather warnings, the Wizard, Time Bandit and Cornelia Marie headed out into a gathering storm that would produce 30ft waves. Not that this fazed the thrill-seeking Time Bandit crew.
“It feels like we’re surfing... on a 120ft surfboard,” pronounced one member with typical bravado. The drama was just as fraught for the British crews manning the likes of the New Dawn, Genesis and Chloe May in the BBC’s Trawlermen documentary (8.30pm, BBC1, 10 September). Indeed, the first episode of the series, which follows the lives of the skippers and their crews from Fraserburgh and Peterhead, was almost postponed last month after the death of one of the New Dawn’s crew members.
This week, we joined the New Dawn as its 23-year old skipper, Chaz, was reduced to one net of the boat’s original three after just four days at sea, and Genesis skipper Alan was forced to battle all night to keep an ailing winch running. The risks they took were huge, but so were the potential rewards, at least for some. While the Genesis pulled in a £40,000 haul of monkfish, lone fisherman John risked his life for £200 worth of crab. As he tried to coax his daughter to eat some by pretending it was chicken, the pathos couldn’t have been greater.
Suffice to say, the first thing that used to go through my mind when I looked at a piece of pre-packed fish was how expensive it was. Not any longer, for the men who do a job with a mortality rate 30 times higher than any other.