Discovery Channel(NEW YORK) — Up to 10 inches wide — some weighing almost 3 pounds — with 10 legs and of course, claws that can break a finger, Dungeness crab fishing is not for the faint of heart. Add to that the unforgiving weather and potentially tumultuous relationships on board the boats, the situation can become dangerous and deadly at times.
No one knows that better than Captain Gary ‘the Ripper’ Ripka and his son Kenny, who own and operate two commercial fishing boats in Newport, Oregon, the Dungeness crab capital of the world.
“It’s a pretty high-risk job, the most dangerous job in the world,” Gary Ripka told ABC News’ Chief Business, Economics and Technology Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis on a recent episode of “Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis.”
For a few months of the year, this father-son duo and their crews work around the clock, turning over hundreds of pots of crab per day that can weigh up to 200 pounds a piece. In this first season of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove, four crew members lost their lives.
“We’ve lost lots of friends over the years and it’s typical for us to lose 1 or 2 or more guys a crab season,” Kenny Ripka shared. “That’s just the way of life.”
Is the risk worth the reward? It may be life-threatening, back-breaking work, but in a two-month period the Ripkas can net tens of thousands of dollars.
There are millions of dollars up for grab every year in the commercial crab fishing industry, and with 500 boats on the water in Newport, Oregon, the competition can be cut-throat. And with the large majority of their profits caught in the first six weeks to two months of the season, there’s no room for error on their boats.
“Money is obviously a driving force but it’s a lifestyle,” said Gary Ripka. “Once you do it, you’re either hooked or you run away from it as fast as you can. There’s no real in between.”
Even though he was born into the family crab fishing business, Kenny agrees with his father about the commitment to the job.
“You have to be willing to push yourself to the breaking point, and then beyond the breaking point,” he said.
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