Jumping ship, before getting on: A brief encounter with the underbelly of the fishing industry

3K8A2871As the sun rose on the damp, cold winter morning nearly 200 hundred people gathered outside a chain-link fence in the Port of Tacoma quietly chatting with heavy suitcases and duffle bags in hand. The dark silhouettes of large ships finally filled in with color and detail, but I was still unable to determine which one we’d be boarding later that day. I was nauseous with apprehension. Things hadn’t gone as planned, other jobs had fallen through and I was stuck with my last resort of working as a seafood processor on the Bering Sea.

When the gate finally opened there was a mad rush to be in the front of the line, myself and a few of newcomers didn’t realize just how long the wait would be if we were caught at the end. We were abrasively ordered to form a single-file line; yellow caution tape was then used to create our pen. Forklifts buzzed back and forth unloading a few months worth of food for the 250 or so people who would be living aboard.

I looked around and saw a veritable United Nations of low-wage workers: Somalis, South Sudanese, Filipinos, Samoans and other Pacific Islanders, francophone-Africans, a few Arabs, a smattering of Mexicans, and a handful of Americans among others. We were all ready to give our labor for $7.75 an hour, but for that we had to give up our lives for the next four to six months. All free time would be spent sleeping, eating or fraternizing onboard a large floating factory on the Bering Sea. We’d be lucky to set foot on land four times in the coming months.

I met a guy at the tweaker motel I had stayed at earlier that morning who was to work on the same ship. We shared a cab to the Trident Seafoods facility and found ourselves in line with each other for a few hours. He was a nondescript white guy from southern California and had worked in Dutch Harbor at a processing plant the previous summer. He told me he got fired from a different seafood company for getting in a fight with a few Filipinos.

“You know how it goes up there, people like to fuck with you because you’re white,” he said to me assuming I too had been the victim of some “racial injustice” in commercial fishing.

We chatted a while longer, but he quickly bored me. I found myself judging him harshly, but then I realized we were both on the same boat, literally. We were two middleclass white guys in the twilight of our youth without great prospects, we both felt compelled for one reason or another to take a job that would scrape us along the poverty line in the icy waters of the North. Still, I had to walk away from him. I didn’t want to start the season with someone who already had a racial chip on his shoulder as my buddy.

Our handlers starting hollering at us for not being in single file, the mob shuffled around and I took the opportunity to jump up a few spots and immerse myself in a different group. There were two young white guys and two middle-aged ladies, one African American and the other Latina. They had all worked with each other the previous summer as processors.

“You just have to stay with your race and you’ll be fine,” said a guy about 21-years-old. “White people stay with the few other white people, Africans with the Africans, and so on. You’ll meet everyone and you’ll make plenty of friends with other people, but stick with the us whities to start.”

“Whities?” I said with a sheepish grin looking around at our mixed company.

“Yeah, that’s an inside joke,” responded Elaine an African-American woman from southern California. “Around here, if you were born in the States and speak without an accent you’re pretty much a whitey.” She went on to recount a few comical stories about her interactions on the ship with African men as an African-American woman.

The sun grew high in the sky as the line slowly moved along. In the finished office of the sheet-metal warehouse about seven people at a time were signing contracts and showing work visas. At 10:30 a.m. my fellow multi-racial whities and myself finally entered the building after standing in the cold for more than four hours.

Elaine and our Latina friend Cynthia were both wearing tight jeans and knee-high leather boots with three-inch heels, their spirits were up, but both were cold and uncomfortable. Even though they were about to process dead fish for to next six months, they still wanted to look good as they boarded.

My apprehension was subsiding, but it was slowly being replaced by a more foreboding sensation of dread. Cynthia had brought along her pay stubs from the previous season. She showed me a few that ranged from $300 to $500 for two-week pay periods. Hours weren’t guaranteed; if the fishing were bad there would be no fish to process. And if the fishing were below average, the recent hires would have to struggle for shifts. If you’re not working, you’re still on the boat with little to no communication with the outside world.

Earlier I had calculated that I would need at least 80 hours a week for four months to walk away with about ten grand after taxes. While it was still a possibility, it was also an equally strong possibility that after four to six months of servitude I would walk away with five grand. The dread was beginning to manifest itself physically, like butterflies in the stomach but not at all pleasant.

The previous January I had made ten grand in less than two weeks Dungeness crab fishing on the Washington coast. Now I was looking forward to a two-week boat ride to the Aleutian village of Akutan and I would be lucky if I made that over the course of the season.

I had given up my former job in September. After nearly 18-months of living and working on the same boat I felt I needed a change. I thought I had a few options for work on other boats in different fisheries. But one by one they fell through. I had contacted Trident Seafoods, one of the largest seafood companies in the country, about working on deck on one of their company boats in the Bering Sea. I was given a standby position, if any deckhand left their job or failed to show I would then be given a spot on deck fishing for crab and cod. Unfortunately, the entire crew returned so I was offered the less glamorous job of seafood processing.

Countering my dread was my growing affinity for my soon-to-be coworkers. While the clicks and groups that made up the early interaction were based on ethnic and linguistic identities, personal interactions didn’t seem to be at all stifled by them. We were all going to be underpaid and exploited chattel for the coming months. Capital and corporate bottom lines, while not completely color blind, are equal opportunity exploiters of those at the bottom. That said, I was one of few there that would ever be given the opportunity to move within the ranks, from exploited to exploiter.

We finally made our way to the top of the stairs, after five hours in line. Ten feet from the office where the processors were being processed, there was a Jamaican man enthusiastically preaching pan-African unity with a man from South Sudan and another from Mali. There were lots of smiles and agreeable nods of the head from the two men from Africa, but the Jamaican’s pidgin English seemed too much for them to grasp. Michael, the Jamaican, saw Elaine and opened to include her into the conversation, and by default me.

Other than Elaine we were all first time processors, the two men from Africa had both found the job through a recruiter. Recruiters take a cut of the pay, I’m still researching whether or not this means that those hired from a recruiter are actually paid less than minimum wage.

Two years earlier I had met two young Ukrainians at a hostel in Seattle. They had been recruited in their country to work at a processing plant in the Aleutian Islands for a summer. Being two young men struggling with English and no one else they could communicate with during a particularly slow summer, they found it very difficult to pick up enough hours. After they had reimbursed their recruiter for airfare and other fees they found themselves broke after a summer of work. They had made there way back to Seattle and were down to their last $50. Their flight back to the Ukraine left from New York in a week, but broke in Seattle they lacked funds to make their way across the country.

Back in the line we were all sharing our hopes and our fears about the coming months. The Africans had said they had never spent a winter in a cold climate, and the Michael had only spent a winter in New York, which is said was miserable.

While working for minimum wage isolated on a ship, with an overtime rate that wouldn’t count as a living wage in most American cities seems abysmal to most, the prospect of bringing $10,000 back to Mali, South Sudan or Jamaica seemed well worth the struggle and sacrifice for my new coworkers. I say this not as an apology for poverty wages, but for the reality of the situation.

Six months of work could make for very comfortable living for migrant workers from some of world’s poorest countries. According to IMF estimates, the nominal per capita income of Mali was $796 for 2011, $1,939 for South Sudan (although this number includes the oil-wealthy north Sudan as well) and $5,376 for Jamaica. The man from Mali would likely earn ten times the per capita income of his homeland. That would be like me earning $481,470 for my work on the floating factory.

But there was prominent immigrant group missing, which I think was very telling of the labor conditions. There were hardly any Mexicans. In my summers fishing for salmon in Southeast Alaska the vast majority of the cannery workers were Mexican. Given their sheer population, Mexicans without papers make up the largest proportion of workers who face illegal work conditions and labor practices—no person is illegal but the conditions they face can be. Partly for the reason of strict enforcement of valid work visas and partly for the fact that those who have papers know a bad deal when they see one, my Mexican brethren were largely absent.

I finally made my way into the office to be processed at around 1 p.m. After about five minutes I was told that I myself lacked the proper documentation. I only had a driver’s license; I had left my social security card and passport in California. I was told I would have to go to the Social Security office in Tacoma and be able to make it back before the ship departed with proof of my social security number.

I never had to hustle more for a job I didn’t really want. After I was told that I would be unable to work on deck I was offered a processing job and my application was sent to a different recruiter. I took a drug test as part of the application process and filled out a medical disclosure form. I then waited for confirmation. Weeks passed and I hadn’t heard anything. I knew the ship would depart in early-January. New Year came and went and I still no response; my voicemails and emails were all ignored. When I had gotten someone of the phone I was told to wait for an email. I was only able to pry out of a secretary that the ship would be departing on January 6.

I bought a plane ticket to Seattle for January 5. The morning of my flight I still had no confirmation. I finally got someone on the phone who told me I had a job and that the ship was in Tacoma. I was emailed a link to sign my contact electronically. I filled out the necessary info but was dismayed to find the actual contracts were in an unreadable jsp file, so I actually had no idea what I was signing. This, I believe, was illegal.

I made my way to Tacoma and got a motel room close to the facility, I only knew the location thanks to Google Maps. By the time I went to bed the night before I was to depart I still hadn’t received an official confirmation or any boarding itinerary. I woke up at five that morning and called every number for Trident I could find and finally was told to be at the facility at 7 a.m.

I headed off to call a cab and was steaming about spending $80 for a round-trip taxi ride. It was a boneheaded oversight on my part. Of course I would need two forms of ID in this industrial setting, but for the mom and pop boats I had worked on before a state ID was more the sufficient.

The taxi driver who brought me from the Social Security office to Trident was a jovial man from Djibouti. He made a quick point to say he was an Obama supporter and was enraged at those who blamed the president for the economic mess and not Bush. I didn’t mention Clinton’s large role in the fiasco.

When I had mentioned I was headed up to Akutan on a processing ship he smiled and chuckled.

“Lots of work and little money,” he said. He had worked on a land-based plant in Akutan for two seasons a half-dozen years ago. He made a few derogatory remarks about the nondescript “lazy Asians” who he had worked with.

“If you work one season you won’t make any money,” he said eying me from the rear-view mirror. “You work three or four seasons in a row, then maybe you have some money.”

The feeling of dread was increasing again. I hadn’t spent the past three years working on boats for the love; I did it for the money and coincidentally found a few things I loved about it. What I loved was the natural splendor and the body and mind’s struggle against the brutal elements. Locked up on the ship I would find none of that I loved and none of the money that I needed.

The man from Djibouti wished me luck and gave me a handshake as he dropped me off at the Trident facility. I walked back into the office to finish the paperwork. I mentioned the contract signed online was only available in an unreadable jsp file. They didn’t respond. I expressed a little frustration with the lack communication; they told me I was lucky to have a job.

My body was beginning to come to the conclusion my mind didn’t want to acknowledge, the thought of walking on to that boat began to physically pain me. My “whitie” crew was at some other step in the boarding process. I completed a hearing test and went off to a safety training.

When I decided to take the job I was under the impression that it was a four-month commitment, I was dismayed to find the contract was for six months. Six months would cut into salmon fishing in the summer, a relatively high paying fishery. To make $10,000 in the winter I might have had to forgo $25,000 in the summer.

I could always quit at anytime, but there were many incentives to stay until the completion of the contract: a ten percent bonus, a refund of $10 for every $15 paid to the company for daily accommodation on the ship, and most importantly a paid ticket back to Seattle. If I were to quit I would have to pay for my own transportation back to Seattle from Akutan, a trip that would cost an easy $1,500.

The dread soon mixed with self-loathing. Was this really where my life was at, working for $7.75 an hour on a slave ship? I had no other options on the table, a bank account in the red and no unemployment to fall back on. One’s wage is their value to society when viewed through the all-encompassing lens of capital.

I sat in a hallway waiting in yet another line and observed those around me. Some were quietly chatting amongst themselves, others were staring at the ceiling and others saying their final goodbyes to friends and loved one’s on their cell phones.

Oh the irony! For all my ideals on equality, of creating truly egalitarian bonds and economic relations between all peoples, I couldn’t stand to let myself be equally exploited.

I got up and went down to where one of the managers was talking with a few mates. I made my case, I told the manager I had serious reservations of getting on the ship. It was the same man who had interviewed me a month prior in Stockton, California when I was the sole white guy amongst more than a 100 Filipinos. For that reason he remembered me. The fat-ass had trouble distinguishing one brown face from another, but he would always remember the few whities in the sea of black and brown. I reiterated my experience and how it would be a waste of my skill to work below deck.

The looked at me with forced sympathy. He told me I should stick it out, that I after one season below deck I would likely find a higher-paying job on deck.

“You’ll definitely stand out and prove to be one of our top workers,” he said. “Plus you’re one of the only ones who speaks English. But, if you do walk away now you’ll never be hired by us again.”

“Fuck that and fuck you,” I said cowardly under my breath as I left the room. He was wrong on so many levels. He took people’s accented English as being a complete lack of English. Furthermore, I’m down for paying my dues, but as long as I’m adequately paid in the process.

I grabbed my duffle bag from the warehouse then found my recruiter to tell her I was leaving. She said it was better to quit now than to get on the boat and quit in Akutan. Then she asked me why I had even gone through the trouble of coming up to Tacoma in the first place. It was a good question. I really needed a job, I said, but I realized this job would interfere with other more lucrative deck jobs.

I made my way to the road. All I could see was concrete, chain-link fences topped with razor wire, shipping containers stacked high and large cranes in the distance. In 2010 the port handled roughly $28 billion in international trade. While well paid unionized labor handles the trade in U.S., nearly all of the profit from it is built off that poverty wages of those at the bottom, whether in large factories in China or picking produce in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

In the U.S. we give our most undesirable jobs to migrant workers, whether undocumented or on “guest” work visas. This is not simply because U.S. citizens do not want the jobs, but for another more insidious reason. Guest workers have zero political power. They are unable to vote and are thus ignored by politicians. If they were to strike they would likely have their visas revoked and sent back to their home countries. There is always the international reserve army of labor to take their places, for whom minimum wage is a relatively high wage.

Large seafood processors and agricultural businesses use guest workers because it is nearly impossible for them to unionize. The companies reap huge profits off the backs of the world’s poor, adhering only to the bare minimum of U.S. labor law. They do not have to worry about medical benefits, living wages, retirement plans or anything else workers normally demand through collective bargaining.

There is an alternative. Seafood processors in Canada are largely unionized, in turn, most workers are permanent residents or citizens. While I’m currently researching the situation, it seems that Canadian seafood companies have remained competitive globally. Though unfortunately, unions themselves often act as relics of a bygone era.

After about a mile I grew tired of my heavy load and put my large duffle bag on the ground and stuck out my thumb. After a few minutes a large mustachioed man in a Chevy Suburban stopped to give me a lift. He asked me what boat I was getting off; he had assumed I was a merchant marine. I told him I was not getting off any boat, but that I had walked away from one. I gave him my spiel. He told me that was no job for an American, and then told me I should look for union work. He himself was a longshoreman. I asked him how I could make my way into the ILWU. He told me I should marry the daughter of a longshoreman.

“You have a daughter?” I asked with a grin.

“Yup, but she’s married,” he said looking at me through a cloud of cigarette smoke. “Her husband is now a longshoreman.”


  1. Damn, Nick… I’m so very glad to see this article written by a fisherman who’s willing to talk about race, class, privilege, power, all that extremely relevant stuff that is so often glossed over – or butchered – in our industry. There were a couple times in my life when I fantasized about getting on one of those operations (as an ignorant teenager who wanted to go Out West, and as a burned-out social worker desperate to get back to sea). Reading your experience with just the hiring process makes me thankful other options came up instead, and very conscious of those for whom “other options” don’t come up.

    Nice work.

    1. Thanks, I really appreciate the feedback. Yes, it seems no one likes to talk about race, class, privilege and power in the commercial fishing industry. If anything there is a reactionary backlash against these conversations.

      1. Good job Nick for writing a blog from a real experienced perspective in the seafood industry in the brutal bearing sea.My wife works o\in that maze of low wages and depravity for many years as I (an American) reside in her hoe country of the Philippines rising our son here.I hate it that she has chosen such awkward work keeping us apart as well.Well done in your witting getting the word out.

  2. Damn Nick Negative rant. Boo hoo hoo. Race, power priviledge class? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I know those ships and that company ,,who the hell are you to rant about about “illegal” activities. The entire industry is heavily regulated and inspected. Far be it for me that actually knows someting to comment but damn Nick who and what are you calling “illegal”? Back it up. Your an expert on the hiring line. What do you really know about the existing regulations for “At Sea” processing. Do you know Tridents safety record? How about Trident’s record in other industry cataglories? Hey Nick You dont want the job? No problem dont take it. How do you know which companies make “huge profits” are you privy to the information. There is a huge upside to this industry for lots of people. Pretty much the positive side of your negative observations. My entire family worked in processing working our ways up the financial ladder. my kids too! Yes Nick my high school daughter and her pals can tough it out. Race, power, class priviledge? Matters not,,do the job, work hard..So get back to me on your “research” about all the “illegal” activities and various “illegal” plots to cheat you. You mentioned several. That’s big talk Nick,, show us the evidence! Your accusing people of conspiring to cheat and endanger. This is fishing Nick not a poetry reading. Lets hear about your “investigations”. What a negative article. You can make anything sound bad if you try hard enough,, Good grief! Good luck and good fishing. Jay

    1. Thanks for your comment Jay.

      Negative? Definitely.

      Race, power, privilege, class? Unfortunately those determinants matter just as much–if not more–than one’s work ethic. Spare me any rags to riches stories, for the vast majority of the working poor those are just stories.

      More than violations of labor law, the entry is more about the working poor, the minimum wage jobs at which many spend a lifetime laboring. This issue is much bigger than Trident, yet I do make an example of Trident. As a point of principle I do not accept that it’s acceptable for a worker to be poor. Call me an idealist, blame market forces beyond the control of companies like Trident, but I will always view jobs that pay a poverty wage negatively.

      I do air suspicions of illegality in the entry, and believe me, my investigations are ongoing. Stayed tuned for the fruit of my digging. As a full-time commercial fisherman, my investigative journalism doesn’t get the time I would like to give it.

      Best of luck in your resourceful industrial pursuits.

  3. Nick,, I’ll be standing by to review the “fruits” of your investigations. I’ll be glad to “spare you” the torment of my positive attitude and stories of success. I will say however that I own 3 businesses all of which I started from nothing. The point there being that I have taken enormous risks and given of myself and my family for the benefit of the “working poor”. I have also battled against injustice in the workplace and created wealth beyond many of our employee’s best hopes. I’m really proud and happy for that. I think your approach and views are unproductive because they are negative. I’ve been in the slums of Mumbai, China before the “boom” and countless other places where hope really is a distant reality. What’s going on in the PNW Comm. fishing industry is an unlimited opportunity.Any one of those process workers can save and buy into the Ak fisheries. I did with money earned pulling long hours. It’s still there Nick,, I’d recommend to them factory trawler work over finfish and/or crab processing. Deck of an actual commercial fishing boat naturally is a much quicker route. You know that.
    Good luck and good fishing,, stay safe out there!

  4. Such a shame. Now, not nearly at the same level of exploitation as some of these companies, you too used these under-privelaged, migrant workers as a facade for your own uses.

    You made some very valid points, I do not want to overlook that. Points that, having been working for the better part of 8 years in this industry, i find hard to overlook and, inevitably, ignore.

    But the fact remains, Nick, you transmogrified their plights to compliment your arguments. Having started from the bottom, the lowest of the low and being stuck in a similar financial plight those 8 years back, i know first hand, not through assumption or surmising, the degradation of these positions. With a heavy heart and the annual decimation of ‘dreams’, i returned, the boarding of each and every one of those planes signaling the continuation of my life, sans me. Again. And again. And again. And I eventually came to terms with it. It has solidified and confounded my very steadfast beliefs in global human and workers’ rights. Coincidentally, 8 years on and still at the ripe age of 26 years, my hard work and sacrifice has been met with tangible and financial gain. I have worked in every facet of the industry bar the regulatory and biological sides. At 21 I received my first management position, the wage beckoning still to the lowest echelons of the industry but the recognition for hard work done was enough for me at that time to carry me through another year. At 24 I was, according to my ‘captors’ the youngest person in the industry to be running my own plant. And here and now at 26 years old my future is in the balance once again, tipping towards a more coveted position with all the appropriate draws and disclosures. Whereas you, seemingly content simply by your recognition of the exploited, i have every aspiration to leave a mark on this industry for the better, and with upward mobility, no matter how farcical to most, proving relevant to me and my situation, I can not only delineate the ethical from unethical but help to foster a new kind of relationship between worker and industry.

    I could harp on about what i will and won’t do but it will make little difference at this point in time. The one thing you can never be able to change is that you gave up before you even began, citing your inability to succumb to the unfair obligations of a lower class imposed by the capitalist juggernaut. Instead of integrating and garnering the ability to therefor give real attestation to all of your musings, they simply spewed at a looking glass, from the outside in, and that, Nick, makes it very hard in my mind to denote any sort of respect for your leaving. It was not grand. It was not commendable. There were no symphonic crescendos bellowing in and around your head as you walked away. It was just you leaving because you felt incapable. Say what you will about the companies, the workers, the regulators, but please never ever forget and never let go of that fact that while others forged on in your absence and continue to do so every minute of every day of every year, you, again, simply left.

    1. Shame? That’s harsh, but I appreciate the sincere and heartfelt feedback. You say I’ve used plight of underprivileged migrant workers for my own uses, that I have “transmogrified their plights to compliment [sic] [my] arguments.” Yet, I get the feeling that we likely agree on most of the points I’ve made. Your real beef seems to be I didn’t see it through, that I didn’t get on the boat.

      Why is it so bad to write on exploitation that I may have not directly experienced? I left, I have no qualms about that fact. There’s an opportunity cost for every decision we make, and the cost of getting on that boat was far greater than the benefit.

      You’re absolutely right, my leaving was not “grand” or “commendable.” I am a fisherman and a writer, this was simply a story about what I saw and the people I interacted with. My intent was only to shed light the side of the commercial fishing industry that is not romanticized, the side that is largely hidden from public view.

      It’s awesome that you are working for positive change within the industry, we need a lot more people like you. I’d actually love to speak with you about your experiences.

  5. Hey Nick.

    I personally like your article, (as a trident employee) I can see your point and I understand why you left, I have never worked in a boat myself but I had been working for trident since 2006 and and I agree in the way you see “us ” being exploited (7.75$ an hour and 15$ a day for accommodation doesn’t seems pretty from an outside view, specially for the largest seafood company in Alaska) but yet I have to say that “illegal” thing you speak of it’s false

  6. Even though it seems pretty funky, Im almost sure it’s legal, ( trust me, I’ve done it several times before and still pretty funky ) for what Jay said on his comment I think that it’s great that he share his point of view but I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about, he might have some knowledge on the matter but you don’t know how things run around here, I’m Mexican and also know the “withies” whom for whatever reason seem to be more likely to get better positions
    asleads, managers or any other “easier” job than the rest of the population (which I can tell from my experience in 4 different facilities majorly

  7. Composed of Filipinos and Mexicans, I had worked my way up now having a better “slice of cake” but that doesn’t mean I forget the way I’ve been treated before specially like you said for the lack of English or an accent, whatever I got I earn it working, not because the color of my skin.
    Like I said before, I really like your article but I just think you had bad luck. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg and there’s so much more about this topic the whole

  8. Blog wouldn’t be enough, hit me back if you want to know more about the god blessed (apply sarcasm here) company I work for.

    Sorry for the 4 parts comment but my cellphone hates me!

  9. Walter, Enlighten me. Just exactly what is it about our industry that you suspect that I “don’t know what I’m talking about”. Your additional statement that I don’t “know how things run around here” is of specific interest. Please be specific I am looking forward to reading your opinion. If you are willing to provide me with the location where you participated and your job I’d appreciate it. Also I agree with your comment that you feel that Nick’s assertion of “illegal” operations is false. You say you were exploited? OK that’s your feeling and your entitled to it. You also mentioned that you feel “the Withies” had more advancement opportunities. I’m guessing that you meant to write “Whitey’s”? Regarding that I have no idea why that was in your experience. You mention “lack of English” , “accents” or skin color possibly being a factor. Well lack of English matters to me performing leadership roles in a dangerous industry. It also is often a plus but you MUST be bi-lingual to enjoy that benefit. Calling or describing people as “Whitey’s” is a bad idea. You might want to consider that as an indicator of bad judgement and possibly attitude on your part. People tend to know who describes them negatively based on race. It’s a right we all have. Happily you report that you were able to succeed and advance. I’m glad to hear that. That Walter is how it’s supposed to be. In my from the ground up career in the Fish Process Industry I had some difficulty advancing at first. But like you I persevered and fought my way forward. Got passed by some less qualified people and always was a hold out for the underdog when I earned the positions where I could help. That type of challenge will always be there. But you have succeeded and I respect that. I have stated from the beginning of this discussion that this is a tough business. That should be a reason to be proud for all participants. My daughter and her high school aged friends(And many others I have helped place with @ 6 Seattle based Fish Co.’s) who worked for Trident used the money they earned to pay for College. They saw the “funky” as you state parts of the industry and were not thrilled with being away from home pulling 16 hour shifts BUT they never sniveled or badmouthed Trident. They just kept their heads down and worked. Oh and one more thing. Their only negative experiences was a vicious harassment by “Hispanic” employee’s at the process facility where they worked. How do you like that. They did not enjoy being called “Whities” and other crude racial slurs from the “hispanic” workers. The Mexicans. It was constant and visible to the managers and outrageous. It came daily from the Mexican men and women. Include that in the mix here. My daughter endured and persevered. No whining or sniveling.
    Two final things Walter. I’m waiting to hear where I specifically “Don’t know what I’m talking about” from your statement, and where it is that I “don’t know how things work”. And finally I have had many transactions with Trident. I have had transactions with almost all the Seattle Seafood companies. These transactions range from being a processor,a fish boat deckhand, a fish boat owner-operator, building multiple seafood process plants on shore and aboard At-Sea process vessels, serving on A,D,F&G boards regarding regulations, testifying as an expert witness both for and AGAINST process companies and vessel owners in cases regarding safety, accidents and fair trade. There are many other qualifications I’ve accumulated but I am starting to feel like (and likely sound ) like a self important jack-ass. I just want you to know that my friend Chuck Bundrant the founder,CEO and leader of Trident Seafood’s got his start in the business in the Mid sixties. Chuck left Seattle on a floating crab processor as a clean-up man. He settled in Kodiak where he lived under an abandoned skiff on the beach until his perseverance landed a hard to get job as a grunt at the cannery. He worked his way up there until he secured a position on a fishing vessel as a deckhand. After the earthquake a fellow bought a crab boat and chose Chuck to run it because he was such a hard worker. Chuck worked his way up the vessel owners ladder and soon designed and had built crab fishing and catcher processors still in use today by Trident and other companies. The rest is history. Ask around it’s all documented. The losses, the wins, the winners, the losers of life and fortune. Did you know that Chuck rescued a couple of dying fishermen off a sand bar at night in Bristol Bay using balls and his strength. Swooped down and pulled them out of the mud from his chopper. Huge chance of dying himself. I was nearby listening on the radio. 2 men died Chuck and his pilot saved 2. Look it up. The vessel was the 90% Angel. There is so much more. Ask around.

    Walter good luck and I hope you reach all your goals in the Commercial Seafood and Process Industry. You can do it. There are obstacles to overcome. It’s the way it has been since they built the pyramids. Congratulations for your success. Looking forward to hearing from you. I am not disagreeing with your opinions about some levels of injustice and difficult conditions. I am doing the same thing Iv’e done from the beginning of this discussion with Nick. Pointing out that this is a wonderful and WIDE OPEN industry Walter! If you want you can achieve great things without anyone really holding you back. That’s not the case in most industries today. Almost none. Best of luck!! Lonest rant ever but this negativity is only one side of the industry. My comments are 100% accurate. Good luck and good fishing!!!
    Jay Follman

    1. wow! ok where to begin…?
      first i want to apologize for a couple things, my very late reply, my use of the “W” word describing clear skinned people such as myself just from a different side of the fence, and the “negative” but not untrue comments.
      i dont know you Jay and you dont know me, for what you said you had walk the same path i had so your experience on the field its also a good input, and im NOT dis-accrediting your comments, but like i said… you dont know me and the path that i walked i did it barefoot (as a metaphor) to begin with i never meant to disrespect anybody using the “W” word, i wasnt trying to be racist in any means, and if somebody get offended by it i truly apologize for the use of such word.
      the comments that i made it might appear “negative” but i never said it was easy for me to get where i am now, badmouth you say??? no no no no, i´ll never badmouth the company
      i´ve been working on for the past 7 years. its a big company and it has ups and downs like any other company… but it doesnt mean whatever i comment wasnt true. i have MY opinion and… like it or not, thats what happened to me. dont take my word, im pretty sure you could find 100+ people on the Seattle area who can give you their own opinion which… good or “negative” its still theirs.
      as of chuck i know his history (trident has their own channel on Akutan) but as a person i cannot comment, i dont know him at all and i cannot tell how good at heart he may or may not be (of course his friends are gonna tell me how good he is, that church he always goes to in Hawaii and how much money he has donated to it and blah blah blah) of course my status as an hourly employee doesnt reach his circle of friends. but who knows? he could be god´s son reincarnation and im just not lucky enough to meet him.
      so overall i was just sharing the perks of such company… i guess everything depends on which side of the mirror you´re looking from.
      i appreciate your criticism because it helps me to see my flaws and how people take personal something that it doesnt really matter…. just saying.

      good luck to you too.

      1. Walter
        First off no need to apologize for the “Whitey” comments. As a white man I have no sensitivity to ridicule. Zero. It’s great, just laugh it off. I mentioned it as a helpful suggestion. Wish more people utilized that skill. Of course I’ve had lots of practice. The USA will be much better off in the future when more people besides white folks wont fall apart at words. It’s a sign of weakness. So don’t sweat that. Not a problem.
        Regarding your experiences. I agree with you. I would never wish to or argue with you about your life. You choose the words coming up “barefoot” and I get that. Great choice of words. So I think my perspective regarding the negatives was not that anyone was not subjected to difficulties or hardships BUT that the negative attitudes and/or responses while true make your success that much better. I also agree there is no shortage of complainers in Seattle. Trident is a frequent source of foolish whining. Whatever, they are the biggest so that goes with the territory.
        If you see Chuck tell him Jay Follman says hello. Or if you wish just introduce yourself to Chuck. Trust me you will be having a real conversation with a man who has a huge regard for all workers and people.
        I hope you are able to continue to succeed and enjoy a great career in the Business. Good luck to you Walter and if you ever see me around ( I can be hard to miss) by all means grab me and we’ll have a chat. I’ll buy! This time!! Next one on you!
        Jay Follman

    2. I know this is an old blog post, but I’m surprised that no one pointed out the fact that Walter was using the term ‘whitey’ because you had used it in your original post. Pretty rude of you to rip him a new one on that.

  10. Euegene, I was not being “rude” to Walter, we were discussing his previous points. If you read the previous comments he did not use the word “whitey” which makes you correct BUT he misspelled it so it was his actual word. He used the word whithies which actually might be a good new term for some folks. Walter does confirm it’s a misspell. So I disagree with you that I was being rude to Walter. I have high regard for Walters experience and his perspective. I think if you’ll take another look you’ll see what I’m referring to. Good luck and good fishing!

    1. Whitey, whithie, cracker, honkey… We got the idea right? It’s not a racial thing, it’s the way it is up here. People tend to stick with their race. I did not take offense in your comment Jay, you were just explaining your point of view from your perspective while I was expressing it from Mine.
      Now I turned 10 years working for trident and still learning, not a lot of changes in the operation, different managers and crazy ideas. WHAT A RIDE!
      hope you doing well Jay!

  11. Interesting story Nick. I agree 100% , if i work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week under those conditions, i expect to be fairly compensated with a fat paycheck. It certainly pays to do your research. NOW, I would never remotely consider working on a slav………i mean factory trawler. 2 week paychecks at $500 is absurd ! 5,000 MINIMUM is only fair. THANKS FOR THE WARNING !

  12. I never have. I seriously considered it several years ago but my research spared me the ordeal. My biggest question first was pay. My research revealed a 2 week paycheck reflcted 224 hours of labor. Net pay after taxes was average $200 – $300. Some end up with a bill instead of a paycheck. I thought they were joking. They were not. Most have no idea of what they are getting into.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s