Purse Seiner Vessel Crew Training Opens in Gig Harbor

Sea Grant Washington
Image via University of Washington.

Owners of the 501(c)(3) non-profit Gig Harbor BoatShop and the Seattle-based research institute Washington Sea Grant have stepped up to fill a growing need for crew aboard commercial seiner fishing vessels harvesting their catch in Alaska.

The six-day program, beginning April 11, is designed to teach the fundamental skills needed to work on a commercial fishing vessel. The hands-on curriculum, taught by experienced captains and crew, will be conducted in the classroom and onboard commercial fishing vessels in south Puget Sound and in historic Ancich Netshed on Gig Harbor’s waterfront. The program costs $100 and includes two Washington Sea Grant Coast Guard-approved safety training courses: Sea Safety and Survival (drill instructor) and First Aid at Sea.

Instructor Gregg Lovrovich said he’s looking forward to introducing a younger generation to purse seining.

“I can’t imagine earning my livelihood in any other way,” he said.

Program participants will learn the basics of net mending, navigation, line handling and on-deck skills, including setting and hauling a purse seine net from a fishing vessel while it’s underway. Those who successfully complete the training will receive a certificate and assistance in finding crew jobs.

“Great to see their program getting off the ground,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka, Alaska, whose association shared resources with the Gig Harbor folks a year ago. “Every year we have members looking for crew and that seems to be increasing. Twenty years ago, there were people walking the docks looking for work. Now there are skippers looking for crew.”

That’s the reason that ALFA has a crew training program of its own, which continues to attract more interest than there are spaces in the class. There are young people eager to learn academics with hands on learning, Behnken said, but also those who prefer to learn by doing and are not interested in more academic learning.

Salmon purse seiners fishing in Alaska are a maximum of 58 feet long and typically crewed by four or five people, including the skipper. The fishing season runs from mid-June to early September, with crew members living aboard the vessel for the entire season.

Crew are compensated on a share basis, a percentage of the total catch. For more information on the training program visit the Gig Harbor BoatShop website at www.gigharborboatshop.org or call (253) 857-9344.