December 12 2007: 2:03 PM EST
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By the numbers

The work of Alaskan crabbers.

By Telis Demos, writer-reporter

(Fortune Magazine) -- In the Bering Sea, waves freeze as soon as they hit the deck of the Rollo, a 107-foot crabber out of Seattle and a star of Discovery Channel's top-rated reality series Deadliest Catch. The Rollo is one of about 70 ships registered to operate in Alaska's booming fisheries; over the course of a two-week journey, its five-man crew, headed by captain Eric Nyhammer (in blue), will collect up to 200,000 pounds of snow crabs, a nearly $300,000 haul.

95 million pounds of crabs will be pulled from Alaska's waters by the end of the winter season, a quota set by the state and federal governments. That's 45 million more than in 2000, when quotas were slashed and officials cut the number of registered ships from about 250 to less than 80. Thanks to that respite, plus unusually cold ocean temperatures that help crabs breed faster, the seas are better stocked than ever.

$4.30 per pound is the typical price Alaskan fishermen get for king crab, the most expensive species (the snow crabs pictured here fetch $1.40). Five years ago king crab was $6.27, before Russia began an export boom that doubled U.S. supply. Alaska recently demanded that Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500) stop misrepresenting Russian crabs as American; its packaging uses an image of a ship from the TV show.

141.7 fatalities for every 100,000 workers were recorded in the fishing industry last year, making it the deadliest job category tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bering is especially dangerous: It averages 262 deaths per 100,000 workers, making it nearly four times as life-threatening as logging.  To top of page

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