dan at sea

Here’s part of a letter I just received from a man named Dan. He lives in the ocean. I plan to print some of his letters in the next issue of Crimewave. This is just a tiny mouth full of saltwater to get you interested.

I work on a Factory Trawler for a fishing company based in Seattle. I cook for the crew, theres approximately a hundred of them from the captains to the mates to the chief steward and the galley crew to the deckhands to the processors. We come from all over the place. Some live in Ohio when theyre not working. Some live in New York. We got folks from Kenya, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Vietnam, Poland, and of course Norway. You see, Norwegians apparently work on every commercial fishing boat out of Seattle (this is not gospel though. Ive only worked on this boat). This boat fishes for Pollack in the winter and fall. There are twoactually threefishing seasons for this boat. Pollack is divided into two seasons, A, and B, they are separated by the hake season. Pollack and Hake are in the cod family. Pollack is more favored than hake. Hake is a cheap fish. During A season, the Pollack stock has a lot of roe, which is prized by the Japanese, who have spoken for all the roe we get before its even caught. It sells wholesale for about $7 per lb. Retail is about $30. Im not sure exactly on the market since the only time I eat roe is on the boat. Its actually pretty goodif you like eating thousands of tiny fish eggs in a sack that looks either like a thumb thats been smashed in a door, or a deformed, veiny sausage. This boat has two big-ass nets it shoots (or lets out) alternatingly. When they haul back the net, it can have up to, and often does have, 100 tons of mostly Pollack. There is always going to be other fish referred to as by catch by the observers on the boat. The observers are contract employees of the National Marine Fisheries Service. They count EVERYTHING thats not Pollack. So far Ive seen salmon, cod (so much cod), a fish known as King of the Salmon (its not a salmon, its a scary looking fish), squid, viper fish, jelly fish, and so on. We can eat most of the by catch. We can not eat the salmon. It is against the law. As I said, we can eat the other fish, but we cant sell it. To do so would encourage fishing for other fish out of season or something like that. Anyway, after the fish has been caught, its put into these giant hoppers that hold the fish for regulating through the factory where its skinned, filleted, candled, and either frozen in blocks, or sent to the forward part of the factory where its turned into several grades of surimi. Surimi is a fish cake that is also popular in Japan, and it is also used to make Krab, and Skallops (note the use of the letter K.K as in faKe crab, and faKe scallops). Well, the boat shoots and hauls back net after net of fish until theres 900 tons of frozen product in the freezer holds. This boat is 280 long. Its a blast to work on. The people are fun, and there aint shit to do but work, eat, sleep, and maybe watch a movie or two, or read a book. Oh yeah, the boats about five or six stories high. I think. I just saw the engine room the other day and had the living shit scared out of me. I mean theres people who actually know how all that stuff works. I cant even begin to explain. I can tell you about the engine room later. Theres so much more about this though. Were fishing for Hake off the Oregon coast right now. When we fish for Pollack, we fish out of Dutch Harbor on the Aleutian chain off Alaska, where we fish in the Bering Sea.

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