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This summer we tried a case against the Wizard (one of the vessels shown on Disney’s “Deadliest Catch” television series). Captain Keith Colburn was one of the witnesses in the case.

The case arose from a career ending shoulder injury suffered by a crew member when he slipped and fell down the engine room stairs. We prevailed in court and established that the Wizard was negligent and responsible for the fisherman’s damages.

During the case we relied extensively on material from the “Deadliest Catch” and the Wizard’s own website. In preparation for the case we watched every episode of the “Deadliest Catch.”

One of the skippers who caught our interest was Captain Sig Hansen. Our interest was piqued again when we read about Captain Sig’s involvement with Global Fishing and his decision to endorse crab imported from Russia.

Global Fishing, the largest U.S. importer of Russian king crab, reportedly contacted three of the Alaskan skippers portrayed on the “Deadliest Catch” about promoting Russian crab. Two of the skippers rejected the offer, the third, Sig Hansen, agreed to the offer.

Hansen, in a telephone interview, said that he hoped the endorsement would help all crab products by invigorating sales and driving up prices. The crab is currently being sold at some Wal-Mart stores.

However, several of those who were also approached by Global Fishing have strong opinions as to why they rejected thier offer.

Jonathan Hillstrand, owner of the F/V Time Bandit of Homer, said he received numerous phone calls in the summer from Global, trying to persuade him to promote the Russian product.

“I turned them down. This is a fishery that has operated like the complete Wild West with blatant (conservation) violations,” Hillstrand said.

Phil Harris, owner of the F/V Cornelia Marie of Kodiak also turned down the Global Fishing marketing pitch.

“This whole thing stinks to high heaven,” said Harris. “We are madly trying to get consumers to buy American seafood.”

While strange and counter-intuitive on the surface, Hansen’s decision to promote Russian crab may suggest a willingness to put financial gain over loyalty to the fleet. This same kind of theme frequently plays out when profits are more important to vessel owners than safety.

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