Alaska Fisherman looking to move to the Gulf

Good day all - I’ve been working as a commercial fisherman in Alaskan and Russian waters for the last 25 years. 20 years of that has been in the wheelhouse - I’m going on my 5th license issue. I currently hold a 200 Master/ 1600 Mate (oceans), and a 3000 Master Fishing (oceans). My last gig was as mate on a 300ft bottom trawler, with a crew of 80, fishing the Aleutian Islands. I ran the boat for 12hrs/day, opposite the captain’s shift.

The fishing industry in Alaska is in sad shape, and its not because of lack of fish. Gov’t regulators are bowing to pressure from the environmental groups and are cutting quotas and closing off traditional fishing grounds…without any good science to back up their decisions. They are imposing rules and restrictions that make no good sense and which are crippling alot of fishing companies. Additionally, the current recession has dropped fish prices to the point where some boats can’t even afford to leave the dock. Needless to say, those working in the industry have suffered greatly due to all these factors.

I’m tired of it all, and I want a change. I worked in the GoM for a few months back in 2000, on a small boat doing live-boat diving out of New Iberia. I really enjoyed it, and I’m somewhat familiar with the geography down there. I want to work offshore on OSV’s or similar.

So I have a few questions, if you with experience could possibly take the time to answer. I would be very grateful.

  1. What would be the best way for me to land a good job in the GoM?

  2. I am currently in school to upgrade to 1600 Master. What other credentials will I need to land a good position? Are GMDSS and ARPA considered mandatory?

  3. What companies are considered to be the best to work for?

  4. Which are considered the worst?

Any other advice would be much appreciated.

The best bet for you would be to work for Harvey Gulf, or Edison Chouest. Both companies are operating in Alaska. There are a few vessels in Dutch now, waiting on permitting from the government. I doubt the 2011 season happens, but it’s possible. If Shell doesn’t get anything from the government by Jan.1st, then it will be too late for the planning of the coming open water season. I would call both companies. The only bad thing, most of the vessels have minimum crewing (from what I understand)until things start up. At least, let them know who you are. When the time comes, I’m sure they’ll give you a call. They might possibly hire you with the intention of putting you in Alaska later. Both companies are making an effort to hire local. It’s cheaper, as far as flights, but more importantly, its good for business and the local economy. GMDSS is mandantory, APRA is for vessels with that equipment installed. Right now, you cannot be too picky with companies because the job market is pretty tight. Just getting a job would be a good accomplishment, but with Chouest or Harvey, and knowing Alaska waters, might help you get on with either company.

[QUOTE=anchorman;43518]The best bet for you would be to work for Harvey Gulf, or Edison Chouest. Both companies are operating in Alaska. There are a few vessels in Dutch now, waiting on permitting from the government. I doubt the 2011 season happens, but it’s possible. If Shell doesn’t get anything from the government by Jan.1st, then it will be too late for the planning of the coming open water season. I would call both companies. The only bad thing, most of the vessels have minimum crewing (from what I understand)until things start up. At least, let them know who you are. When the time comes, I’m sure they’ll give you a call. They might possibly hire you with the intention of putting you in Alaska later. Both companies are making an effort to hire local. It’s cheaper, as far as flights, but more importantly, its good for business and the local economy. GMDSS is mandantory, APRA is for vessels with that equipment installed. Right now, you cannot be too picky with companies because the job market is pretty tight. Just getting a job would be a good accomplishment, but with Chouest or Harvey, and knowing Alaska waters, might help you get on with either company.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for that - I’ve already been in contact with Edison Chouest, will call Harvey on Monday. I would take a job in Alaska if it happened, but I’m really tired of big waves and snow flying sideways at 60kts. That’s one of the main reasons I want to come and work down south. Its warm down there.

[B]Well Goat, I was posting a bunch of links in a reply and lost my #$%@# connection. But for the most part, the government agencies require a license to run their boats. You could try NOAA, and some of the colleges on the gulf for research vessels. It’s always [I]interesting[/I] to see both ends of that spectrum. [/B]

[B]By the way, what is “live-boat” diving ? [/B]

[B] Here is something I posted earlier about a “field” jobin south Fla. starts around Jan I think. but thats a good starter kit for most part.[/B]

[B]You didn’t say “when” you wanted to start, and that makes a difference. There are all kinds of “openings” and “closures” down here too. [/B]

[B]Anyway, don’t blame ya for getting tired of the cold, good luck. [/B]

I guess this thread wasn’t meant to be political but since you made that the centerpiece of your job hunt …[I]“The fishing industry in Alaska is in sad shape, and its not because of lack of fish.” [/I]

Is an almost exact quote of the battle cry of the Grand Banks cod fishermen before they destroyed that fishery and the regional economy.

You guys would fight each other to the death to catch the last pair of breeding fish and then blame the government for not stopping the fishery before it was too late. And don’t waste bandwidth telling us how many pollack are swimming around the Bering, it isn’t just about the number of fish.

[QUOTE=Steamer;43553]I guess this thread wasn’t meant to be political but since you made that the centerpiece of your job hunt …[I]“The fishing industry in Alaska is in sad shape, and its not because of lack of fish.” [/I]

Is an almost exact quote of the battle cry of the Grand Banks cod fishermen before they destroyed that fishery and the regional economy.

You guys would fight each other to the death to catch the last pair of breeding fish and then blame the government for not stopping the fishery before it was too late. And don’t waste bandwidth telling us how many pollack are swimming around the Bering, it isn’t just about the number of fish.[/QUOTE]

You can always get a job on the Discovery Channel. Apparently, the stock is making a rebound, but if the quotas never started, it would be a different story, no doubt.

[QUOTE=anchorman;43554]You can always get a job on the Discovery Channel. Apparently, the stock is making a rebound, but if the quotas never started, it would be a different story, no doubt.[/QUOTE]

Who me? I’ve already got a great job helping the uber rich enjoy their megayachts. :wink:

And it wasn’t quotas that are helping cod to rebound, it was a complete ban on the fishery. That ban has just been extended for another 3 years.

There is a great book about the history of the cod fishery. Cod:A Biography of the Fish That Changed the Worldby Mark Kurlansky. It makes for an interesting read no matter what you think about fishing or environmental issues, it is just fascinating history.

[QUOTE=Steamer;43553]I guess this thread wasn’t meant to be political but since you made that the centerpiece of your job hunt …[I]“The fishing industry in Alaska is in sad shape, and its not because of lack of fish.” [/I]

Is an almost exact quote of the battle cry of the Grand Banks cod fishermen before they destroyed that fishery and the regional economy.

You guys would fight each other to the death to catch the last pair of breeding fish and then blame the government for not stopping the fishery before it was too late. And don’t waste bandwidth telling us how many pollack are swimming around the Bering, it isn’t just about the number of fish.[/QUOTE]

Whatever. You obviously know nothing about the north pacific fisheries off Alaska, which have been managed very conservatively for years. The one species of fish you referred to - pollock - is in a downward cycle recently and there aren’t so many around. All the other stocks of major target species (groundfish) are in good shape. And don’t think that you have a clue because you watch that stupid crab fishing show. Its a load of crap, and most people in the industry have nothing but disdain for it.

What is live-boat diving? A diver jumps off the bow wearing a hat w/ supplied air. The captain then follows the diver’s bubbles as he works along the bottom, always keeping the boat behind the diver so the diver is out off the bow somewhere and not anywhere near the propellers.

[QUOTE=Goatherder;43558]Whatever. You obviously know nothing about the north pacific fisheries off Alaska …[/QUOTE]

You might be surprised at how very mistaken you are about some of the things you think are so obvious, my unemployed fisherman friend. :smiley:

[QUOTE=Steamer;43563]You might be surprised at how very mistaken you are about some of the things you think are so obvious, my unemployed fisherman friend. :D[/QUOTE]

Just the facts ma’am::

From http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/walleye_pollock.htm


and from http://www.adn.com/2009/09/18/940150/bering-sea-pollock-survey-finds.html

Pollock population estimates have been declining for some time. Last year’s spawning biomass was at the lowest level since 1980, and that led fishery managers to reduce the allowed catch by nearly 19 percent. The allowed catch has been reduced 46 percent since 2006, according to NOAA.

Massive factory trawlers and motherships had been a catastrophe on maintaining a healthy Pollock stock in the late 80’s & early 90’s when close to 50 of these up to 400’ vessels were built (and one old steam containership converted to a mothership) and it was a 365 24/7 free for all going after these fish including many small juveniles just to feed the insatiable demands of the factories on these ships. The stocks dropped fast but the catch didn’t follow. By the mid 90’s Federal management of the fisheries included splitting the seasons in two (an A & B season) and eventually issuing vessels individual quotas. Both went a long way to reversing that trend all of which is shown in the graph. There seemed to be a good balance between stock and catch. What now is happening is not overfishing but a steep decline in the stocks from other causes which are not clear. Obviously, the hoped for rebound in the stocks post the 2008 report did not materialize.

The end result is that at least Pollock, just are not there.

I probably shouldn’t have mentioned pollack because depending on what you want to believe you can find a statistic that when presented by itself will “prove” any position. Even though the population is going through what appears to be a natural cycle of decline, they are still the largest biomass in the Bering, and the quotas are still around 900,000 tons … it is only “restricted” compared to the free for all circus that used to be. I believe it is one of the most sustainable fisheries in existence today by all reports and judging from the incredible oversight and low by-catch I used to see, that is probably true. The quotas were initiated because of the huge unregulated catch in the past that was founded on an overabundance that might have been related to warmer water temperatures in the late 70s and early 80s.

I know this because I spent a fair amount of time over several seasons on a large factory ship in the Bering as well as other processors in the area. I have paid enough dues in Dutch, the Bering, Bristol Bay, Kodiak, PWS, and S.E to feel very comfortable criticizing an Alaskan fisherman who blames someone else for the harvest he has planted and the unemployment he has reaped. I am a Seattle guy who lived on the ship canal in Ballard. Alaskan fishermen were my neighbors and sometimes drinking companions. I have seen and heard every bitch they can come up with, some are valid, many are BS, and most will blame something, anything, anyone, other than his part in the process. When overfishing combines with no quotas or other restrictions, a natural population crash is made even more severe but the fishermen don’t tend to care, that is why I wrote that they will fight each other to kill the last fish. They still blame the greenies and scientists for not having a cod fishery on the Grand Banks. A fisherman complaining about quotas is like a burglar complaining about locks, and the restrictions on ground fish in the Bering and around the Aleutians are there to prevent the Bering from being scraped as clean as the parking lot that no longer supports fish on the Grand Banks.

Steamer…I too was there for the bad old days of 40 boats and ships all passing eachother within a few boat lengths each working on the same school of fish and bringing up bags over a hundred tons at a time. I recall on one trawler I was on brought up a cod end heavier than all the winches could pull and ultimately cutting the net and letting enough fish to spill out until it was light enough to bring on deck. Of course all those fish were dead and completely wasted. I also remember one mothership that the surimi plant went down and couldn’t produce but we were obligated to take the fish the catcher boats brought to us so every pound was ground up and pumped over the side. There were billions of tons of Pollock then and just like the great fir and cedar forrests of old, seemed like that they could never run out of fish. Of course, Alaskan politics was/is behind every facet of fishing in the state and always seems to favor the big seafood companies but I’m not going to wade into that one this time.

At least the rape of the Pollock stocks were ended before the fishery totally collapsed and there are many theories as to the causes of this current down cycle but it is safe to say that it is definitely not doing well right now.

[QUOTE=Goatherder;43511]My last gig was as mate on a 300ft bottom trawler, with a crew of 80, fishing the Aleutian Islands.[/QUOTE]

I realize that you haven’t said that you were on a Pollock boat but 300’ is pretty big for a bottom trawler…can I ask which company and what species your vessel targeted? I don’t want to comment on your claims until I have more info to go on.

Regarding work in the GoM, your timing is not very good. The moratorium, beginning of the winter, a pretty full market of experienced offshore mariners puts you in a tough position for getting mate’s work in offshore right now. Regarding surface dive boats at the moment I think you will find the same situation as anywhere else in Louisiana.

Everybody on gCaptain lately who wanted to get into the Gulf from other parts of the country has literally needed to go to the source and wear out some shoe leather going from company to company. Some have taken weeks if not months of looking before they landed a berth and in many cases it was just being at the right place at the right time. You’d be doing better for yourself to focus on getting an AB position at one of the larger companies like Chouest or Hornbeck. With time, you will have better chances to get promoted and work on higher quality vessels in the meantime. Just don’t expect much at the moment however.

Just to put a plug in for my own personal issue, if there weren’t so many jobs being given to foreigners which should be going to Americans in the GoM, getting the work you seek wouldn’t be so hard. The EPIC DIVER is a saturation dive vessel working in the Gulf with all Mexican officers. Being under 1600 tons, you’d qualify for a third mate’s job on her easily and be earning DP time, but EPIC has a waiver letter from the Coast Guard because they “claim” that qualified US citizen mariners aren’t available! BULLSHIT ON THAT! You should write a letter of complaint.

goatherder,fisherman, are very, clannish,and you might just ,drive, down to Hopedale,and befriend, some of the locals…they are very nice, people,and if you have a need,and they do as well…you prob will get lucky. They respect, a hard, worker,and once, they gain, your trust,they will take the shirts off their backs for ya…Good Luck, friend to you, and your family. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTOEyyC0azM

[QUOTE=c.captain;43567]Of course, Alaskan politics was/is behind every facet of …[/QUOTE]

Appalachia by the sea.

[QUOTE=c.captain;43568]… EPIC has a waiver letter from the Coast Guard because they “claim” that qualified US citizen mariners aren’t available! BULLSHIT ON THAT! You should write a letter of complaint.[/QUOTE]

That is excellent advice that I hope a lot of people follow. If there is enough of a paper trail of qualified mariners pointing out the fraud involved in those waivers we might get something changed. If nothing else maybe some admirals will be embarrassed out of their jobs.

[QUOTE=Steamer;43556]There is a great book about the history of the cod fishery. Cod:A Biography of the Fish That Changed the Worldby Mark Kurlansky. It makes for an interesting read no matter what you think about fishing or environmental issues, it is just fascinating history.[/QUOTE]

Yes, this is a very interesting book, and an excellent read. Should be added to the book list thread.

[QUOTE=Steamer;43574]That is excellent advice that I hope a lot of people follow. If there is enough of a paper trail of qualified mariners pointing out the fraud involved in those waivers we might get something changed. If nothing else maybe some admirals will be embarrassed out of their jobs.[/QUOTE]

Testify brother!

I don’t mind tellin you that you need to write to:

Chief, Foreign and Offshore Vessel Division (CG-5432)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street SW
Washington DC 20593-0001
(202) 372-2275 v.
(202) 372-1917 f.

Tell em you want the work in the GoM you are entitled to under 33CFR141.15(a) and that you’re mad as hell and you ain’t gonna take it anymore!

[QUOTE=c.captain;43582]Testify brother!

I don’t mind tellin you that you need to write to:

Chief, Foreign and Offshore Vessel Division (CG-5432)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street SW
Washington DC 20593-0001
(202) 372-2275 v.
(202) 372-1917 f.

Tell em you want the work in the GoM you are entitled to under 33CFR141.15(a) and that you’re mad as hell and you ain’t gonna take it anymore!

[/QUOTE]

What resource do you use to see what vessels are on Jones Act Waivers, or those recently having applied? I can’t find much on the federal register - just a few passenger vessel notices by Marad.

[QUOTE=anchorman;43583]What resource do you use to see what vessels are on Jones Act Waivers, or those recently having applied? I can’t find much on the federal register - just a few passenger vessel notices by Marad.[/QUOTE]

There is no single point source for this information…Joe Kavanaugh at OMSA is probably the one who knows more than anybody. I don’t believe anything is ever published in the Federal Register. It is this lack of transparency in the system which must change!

Btw, the problem with the job giveaway is actually not a Jones Act issue but an Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act issue. Jones Act covers US flag vessels working on the OCS and OCSLA covers US corporation owned foreign vessels which are “supposed” to have US mariners manning them (vis. 33CFR141.15(a) ), but law firms like Blank Rome have come up with a dozen or more excuses to use to get the USCG to issue the manning waivers none of which are actually true. This applies primarily to CalDive, Helix, Veolia, EPIC, (I think also McDermott & maybe Global Industries may be getting some waiver letters as well but I can’t say with certainty). Contrary to the OCSLA, these companies with vessels they own which are working in the GoM are manning them with foreigners claiming that [U][I]“there is not a sufficient number of citizens of the United States or resident aliens qualified and available for the work.”[/I][/U] and they get their waivers year after year. Most of the subject vessels are unlimited tonnage…the INTREPID, UNCLE JOHN, KESTREL, KINGFISHER. Vessels that have been working in the Gulf for years. Go to the Raddisson or Crowne Plaza at the New Orleans Airport and their bars are filled with the crews for these vessels and they ain’t Americans! Literally, we’re talking a good couple of hundred jobs here. Of course there are also the vessels owned by the big Norwegian offshore companies working for Oceaneering, Global, Veolia, etc… which keep their foreign crews since the vessels are foreign owned and only chartered to the US companies. This I do not believe is right but it is unfortunately legal. This will not change unless the definition of “[U][I]right effectively to control[/I][/U]” the vessel were to be found to rest with the charterer and not the owner. If my company were chartering a vessel for 5 years in the Gulf from a Norwegian company who really controls the vessel? Anybody who brings vessels in and out for Fourchon has seen them ever since Katrina. They came to fix the damage but never left. Like I said, I don’t like it and don’t think it is right but I believe the US owned, foreign flagged vessel waivers are an easier nut to crack provided American mariners speak out and tell the Coast Guard that they are available and want the jobs they are legally entitled to.

Everything you need to know about this is contained in this article written by Blank Rome LLP.