British Columbia

Crab fishermen cashing in during windfall harvest in Northern B.C.

Fishermen say they haven't seen such a bountiful crab harvest in the Hecate Strait in 25 years and are working around the clock to reap the financial benefits this season.

Ship captain says it is the best season he has seen on the Hecate Strait in 25 years

Dungeness crab fishermen are hauling in harvests worth up to six figures a trip this season in the Hecate Strait. (Chelsea Ellis)

Crab fishermen in Northern British Columbia are pinching themselves to make sure they aren't dreaming this season.

Dungeness crab in the Hecate Strait, a shallow body of water between Haida Gwaii and the mainland, are bountiful this year and ship crews are crabbing around the clock to cash in. For many working on the water, it is the most rewarding harvest in recent memory.

Paul Edwards, captain of the Sea Harvest, has been fishing for Dungeness since the 1990s and says it is the best haul he has seen in 25 years. He estimates he is clearing six figures a trip and has made six trips so far.

"A season like this could set a young guy up for life if they are smart about it," said Edwards, who hired two extra crew members so he could keep constant shifts rotating on the boat.

Crabs are packed on ice for market on Odin dock in Prince Rupert, B.C. (Matt Allen/CBC)

Bubba Muldoe, a member of the Sea Harvest crew who has been crabbing for 12 years, lost his voice this season because he has been so thrilled by how much crab he is pulling this month.

"You're screaming and hollering, you're really excited," said Muldoe while unpacking a haul from the Sea Harvest at Odin dock in Prince Rupert.

"It's a lot of work but it pays out in the end," he said.

The work is what brought Frances Esau to Prince Rupert this summer. She was tending bar in Inuvik when her boyfriend suggested she try crab fishing, and she is very happy she followed his suggestion.

Mary Danes, pictured here unloading crabs in Prince Rupert, B.C., described the activity on the dock this crab fishing season as crazy. (Matt Allen/CBC)

"They say it's the best year to be first time crabbing," said Aseu, who has been told by other fishermen she is lucky to have this experience.

"You have to realize this is probably once in a lifetime," said Edwards, who has seen lean and difficult times during his decades in the trade. 

But for now, the traps and the docks are teeming with Dungeness.

Mary Danes works at the Odin dock unloading the latest crab hauls, packing them on ice and preparing them for market. She said the boats have been coming in non-stop.

"It's crazy here," said Danes. "It's a good year to be a crab fisherman."

The forest industry may be tanking in B.C., but on the North Coast, there's money in the ocean. Daybreak associate producer Matt Allen has more on the record crab catch happening in the Hecate Strait. 3:31

With files from Matt Allen and Daybreak North

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