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‘Deadliest Catch’ crew racing to get crabbing after shutdown ends

Wizard captain Keith Colburn says crabbers hope to head out into the Bering Sea no later than this weekend. (Capt. Keith Colburn)

The pots are ready and now that the federal government’s partial shutdown has ended, Alaska’s famous red king crab fishery can begin.

The multimillion-dollar harvest featured on the Discovery Channel reality show “Deadliest Catch” has been sidelined since the season’s Tuesday opening because federal managers who assign individual fishing quotas for the Bristol Bay fishery were among workers furloughed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service workers returned to work Thursday with the goal of getting the necessary permits issued by the end of the week.

“We have implemented a plan to expedite those permits. We have six staff who are working on that solely today,” said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees NMFS.

“The office that issues the permits did a great job because they got in first thing in the morning and got us permits in just a couple of hours,” said Capt. Keith Colburn via phone from the deck of the Seattle-based Wizard as he prepared to head out to sea.

It’ll be a race as the crew and the rest of the Alaska fleet faces a looming deadline.

“We need to have all the crab harvested by the 10th of November so it can be in time for the holiday markets and Japan. We’re definitely under the gun and scrambling to get out there.”

Colburn praised the NMFS workers who quickly got back to work Thursday morning as soon as they could once the shutdown ended.

It’ll be some time before Colburn can determine how much the shutdown actually cost him and the rest of the fleet.

“We’ve seen our operating costs go up because of the time we spent in town. But the one thing we don’t know is price negotiations broke down about two weeks ago because of this government shutdown.”

Colburn was in Washington D.C. last Friday imploring lawmakers to end the shutdown. He told lawmakers he has just two weeks to make approximately 30 percent of his annual income.

“Each day tied to the docks will cost these boats thousands more. Many fishermen and coastal communities are already facing tough times.”

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