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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Somali Pirates Hunt Crab Fishing Boats Making Crew The Real "Deadliest Catch"

When Discovery debuted the show Deadliest Catch in 2005 they expected little more than mediocre ratings and a small niche blue-collar audience.  What they got, however, was vastly different.  The show grew in popularity each year drawing more and more national attention to the fleet whose crews put their lives at risk each day.  The once US-monopolized fishing ground to the west of Dutch Harbor has now become an area of great debate as many poor countries wonder why they aren't getting in on the action themselves.

Ever the free speakers, the Canadians were the first to strike an agreement with the US based fishing companies, though many suspect they did it just to fit in.  Since their inclusion in 2006 however, no other nations have been authorized to fish the Bering Sea.  This has prompted many countries, like the growing and friendly pirate nation of Somalia, to ask "what the fuck?" and then promptly get in their boats and see for themselves.  Fortunately for the fleet, most Somali boats aren't equipped to break the ice below the surface as they travel further north on the ocean, but their adaptive techniques have shown this wouldn't hold true for very long.  The pirates quickly learned from Beyonce, a native Somalian herself, that they needed to 'upgrade' their boats if they wanted to be taken seriously.  Having no money, they decided to use 'white devils' as currency, a tactic that has proven to be very profitable thus far, though the recession has hit their trade as well.  Still, they grew in numbers and strength traveling further north each season hoping to find the fleet. 

In 2008 the first and only known report came in of a Somali boat attempting to board a crab fishing vessel.  What the pirates did not expect was that Bering Sea fishermen are insane.  The 'Crabby Dude,' as was painted on her hull, easily warded off her enemies, and little to no mention of the incident was made to the press.  Discovery took it one step further, destroying the footage of the incident and burying the name of the Somali man that was killed during the incident*.

Still, many wondered if a major event wasn't on the horizon.  Given that the pirates were still seeking a true crab fishing vessel, crews on the US-based ships had been warned to 'keep their eyes open' and to 'always brush their teeth after every meal.'  "We're out here all year just waiting for them to find us," Jonathan Hillstrand of the 'Time Bandit' said in 2009.  "It's only a matter of time before they do.  And then what? We don't have any crappy tee shirts from the 80s guys.  They're all back in Somalia!"

Though recently things have been peaceful on the Bering Sea, Captain Sig Hansen of the 'Northwestern' stays at the ready.  "Aside from the frostbite and the drownings and the 96-hour long shifts, our main focus is the pirates.  We did have a food poisoning incident too, though.  But we don't think that was the pirates."  Either way, it's clear that they have adapted to their new life at sea.  "You know, it's not 2005 anymore," Sig added.  "Some of these Somalis, they have cable now.  They know we're on TV.  And when you couple that stardom with the amount of money they can make with our boats, you have to wonder when your time is going to come.  Cause it's going to, no question."

With hunger growing world wide at an astonishing rate, it will be interesting to see what happens to the fishing industry in the coming decade.  Somalia seems poised to make a real play for the fishing grounds, though many wonder if the recent "free oil on the gulf" campaign didn't divert their attention just long enough for the US to regain their hold on the area.  Tune in to Deadliest Catch next season to see what happens!

*Dave Rabbleson, a former Somali farmer-turned-pirate, was always ridiculed for his name (especially by Mbatute and Wmbeetahteh, his brother and sister, also pirates).  His legacy lives on in every impoverished youth that turns to pirating as a way of life.

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