It's always a race to the king crab for the captains and crew members of the Deadliest Catch, but this season had even the veterans worried when it came to finding that Bering Sea gold.
Ahead of the landmark 15th season of the Discovery Channel docuseries (premiering Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET), PopCulture.com's Anna Rumer visited Dutch Harbor, Alaska, trying her hand at greenhorning on a Deadliest Catch crab boat and learning what had F/V Summer Bay Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski and F/V Wizard Captain Keith Colburn worried about the upcoming king crab season.
After the summer survey found a shockingly low number of king crab, Colburn explained the quotas awarded to each fishing boat were the lowest in nearly half a century.
"I've been fishing for 30, 40 years in the Bering Sea, and this will be the smallest quota we've had since 1985," he told PopCulture. "They're just not finding them in the summer survey. The biomass is down, recruitment is down, so king crab is struggling a little bit."
These historically low quotas were going to be a challenge to fill, Wichrowski told PopCulture, and sure to bring and extra dose of pressure to the already intense work at hand.
"Every season's different, and the thing is with a quota that small, there's that many fewer crab out there so they are gonna be harder to catch," he said. "So if you are lucky enough to land on the beginning, you're gonna be a hero and if you don't, you're gonna be a zero. ... Plus, we're competitive."
It's hard to tell what caused the decline of crab, Colburn explained, but with weather and water temperatures playing a big role in the marine biomass, "erratic" changes in temperature unlike any he's ever seen are surely a factor in the low numbers this year. "It is really stressful cause we don't know," he added.
On the bright side, the Discovery personality attested "there's a massive amount of crab on the horizon for the next year for opilio [crab]."
As for seafood lovers picky about their king crab, Colburn warned, "If you thought it was expensive in the store last year, if you can even find it, buy it."
The competition between captains this season is promised to turn up even more, with new Deadliest Catch Captain Steve “Harley” Davidson of the Southern Wind rumored to know location of more than a quarter-billion dollars worth of king crabs. Will the rumor prove a dangerous fiction? Or lead the captains to their quota in record time?
Deadliest Catch Season 15 premieres Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.
Photo credit: Discovery