Working on a Seafood Catcher Processor

Everyone has heard of the potential to earn money in the Alaska fishing industry. One place to find work is on a seafood catcher-processor. These commercial fishing behemoths are massive boats that harvest and process fish onboard in an efficient, affordable, and high-volume way.

Seafood catcher processors range from 220 to 375 feet long and employ an average of 137 people to work as deckhands and processors. With nearly 250 catcher processor ships trawling the waters of the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, there are a lot of jobs to be had, plenty of fish to be caught, and big paychecks to be made.

Life on a Catcher/Processor

What is it like working on a Catcher/Processor? This video produced by Iquique explains the pluses and minuses of the work.

Fresh, Affordable, and Quality Alaska Fish

The cool thing about seafood catcher processors is that everything happens onboard the ship. The crew harvest, process, and freeze the fish right there. Often fish are frozen within hours of hitting the deck. That’s fresh.

Faster processing times means higher quality and more affordable fish products – roe, fillets, surimi, or fishmeal. Not much is wasted. In fact nearly 99.5% of the fish is used in some way.

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Typically, seafood catcher processors are not based out of Alaska. Many call Seattle, Washington home. The ships fish the Alaskan fisheries during the regulated seasons and may head somewhere else during the other months. They typically fish for…

Alaska Seafood Catcher Processor Photo at Dutch Harbor Dock

  • Pollock
  • Pacific Whiting
  • Cod

It takes the right kind of person to work on a seafood catcher processor. These ships stay out to sea for extended periods of time. They work non-stop until their freezers are full of fish and then they head to port. The workers on these factory ships often log 18-hour shifts with breaks, 7 days a week.

Luckily room and board is provided on the ship. There isn’t much time to do anything except eat, sleep, and work. With no expenses, it is easy to save money when working on a seafood catcher processor. Paychecks can range from $2,000 to $8,000 per month.

Photo of Dutch Harbor Alaska

Fast Fact: Most Catcher-Processors operate out of Dutch Harbor, a city in the Bering Sea region made famous by the Deadliest Catch show.

The main jobs onboard are deckhands and processors. Deckhands deal with the harvest aspect of the ship. Processors jobs are easier to find for entry-level workers. The work is below deck cleaning, gutting, and freezing fish. Either way you will be decked out in rain gear to stay dry. The work may be monotonous, but it is not too challenging. There are also opportunities to try out different roles and move up the fishing industry ladder.

Living and working onboard a boat is a unique experience. You will get to know your roommates and co-workers very well and great friendships are sure to form. It’s a fun job, for people who can handle it.

Learn More: North Pacific Factory Trawlers

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