Captain Sig Hansen Previews The New Season Of 'Deadliest Catch'

Post by: Rick Ellis 19 April, 2021

Discovery's iconic reality series Deadliest Catch begins its 17th season this week and it's fair to say that Sig Hansen has become the face of the show over its long run. As the captain of The Northwestern, he was the first captain highlighted in the 2005 series premiere. And while other captains and boats have moved on and off the series over the years, Hansen has been the show's emotional center. Viewers have watched him battle health problems, wrangle with his brother Edgar over the future direction of the Northwestern and in recent seasons, serve as a very tough mentor to his daughter Mandy. She has become a captain herself and like all Hansen's, this fifth-generation captain has a strong will and moderately scary drive to succeed.

The new season of the show finds the captains battling the effects of the pandemic and while quarantines and frequent medical checks are an expected part of the picture, what viewers might not expect is that the fleet was facing the prospect of a total shutdown in future years. The pandemic had prevented Alaska's Department of Fish & Game from conducting its annual survey of the crab population. So the season began without the expected information on where the crab population might be located. The department also had no idea of the size of the crab population when they determined the season's overall quota. And as Sig explained it to me in a recent phone call, that was a live-or-death problem for the entire fleet. "We had to catch the entire fleet quota." he explained. "If we didn't, by law the fishery has to shut down for one or two years to allow the crab population to recover. And that would meant the end of this fleet. A lot of these boats wouldn't be here in a year or two. So for me, the most important thing about this season was making sure the fleet caught the entire quota."

Sig's idea was to get all of the captains featured on the show together and convince them to work together for the good of the fleet. That meant sharing information on where the crab was located and that's an idea that was met with a lot of skepticism from Hansen's fellow captains. "We don't usually work together. Anf to be honest, the times I've tried to work together in that past haven't been all that successful," Hansen told me. "But we didn't have a choice. I even convinced a veteran captain to come out of retirement one last time to help us out because we needed it." I won't give away the identity of the returning captain, but I will say that his return has an impact on the other boats - and not always in a positive way.  

As for cooperation, even Sig wasn't entirely honest with his fellow captains, although he says he did try. "I might not have given them every small detail of information I had," he laughingly admitted. "But I needed to make sure I caught my quota too. And besides, these captains are good. They didn't need me to hold their hand and guide them to the exact spot."

One captain who didn't quite agree with Sig's approach to sharing was daughter Mandy, who went against his wishes and gave another captain the exact location and depth where the Northwestern was finding crab. When Sig discovers she made that decision, he's mad but he is also uncharacteristically circumspect about her actions. When I asked him if there was more to their disagreement than is in the episode, he told me that it all blew over pretty quickly. "I was mad at the time," Sig explained. "But she is a good captain and in the end I have to respect her decision. It's not the one I would have made, but each captain has their own way of doing things. She didn't volunteer everything she was doing. And honestly, I kept a few things back from her as well."

I asked Sig about the what kind of impact the show had on his family and whether he thought seeing him on television had made it more likely that his daughter would become a captain. "It's hard to say. She grew up in a fishing family and she's been around it all of her life." He did admit that the show gave his family a more intimate look at what the day-to-day life was like during the crab season. "They were surprised by the extreme weather," he said. "You can talk about it, but when someone sees those big's tough." Hansen said that when Mandy was younger, after she saw the show she started looking up weather information and giving it to his wife to send to him. "Obviously, I already had plenty of weather information," he said. "But it was kinda sweet and I think it did build up her natural feelings about what she wanted to do with her life."

Sig is one of those captains who even in normal times isn't the most cooperative with his fellow captains and more than once has lied to them on the radio while he was on camera. I asked him if he ever worried about other captains getting mad once they saw the show and discovered the truth. "No, not really. In this industry, you learn to be skeptical of everyone, because they are protecting themselves and their livelihood. Well, sometimes people get mad, but so many months have passed that it's hard to hold a grudge that long."

As for the future of Alaska's fisheries, I asked Sig about the impact climate change is having on the season. I mentioned I had spoke with fellow Deadliest Catch captain Keith Colburn, who worried that rising temperatures in the Bering Sea could have an impact on the crag population. Sig admitted that it's a concern of his as well, and it's something he had noticed in recent seasons. "You see the crab in different places," he said. "They're going deeper in order to find colder water and while I think we'll be okay for now, I do worry about my daughter's future and the future of the fleet. But this business has never been easy and that is just another thing to worry about. We'll figure it out, we always do."

Speaking of the future, I asked him whether the show had in a way given him a more tangible legacy with his family. Reruns of Deadliest Catch are going to be around decades and it's possible that future Hansen generations will mostly know him from what they see on the show. "I've never really thought about it," Hansen admitted. "But yeah, that would be nice. To think that somewhere down the road someone would say 'Oh look, that's grandpa or great-grandpa Hansen.' Yeah, I'd be happy with that."

Season 17 of Deadliest Catch premiered Friday, March 19th on discovery+, ahead of the season premiere airing Tuesday, April 20th on Discovery.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 April 2021 14:42

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