EVERETT — Collin Wojahn, 17, of Everett, spent the summer traversing the Bering Sea counting crab populations for a nonprofit research foundation. He’s also a Sea Scout and Eagle Scout. In September, he began his first year at Everett Community College’s Ocean Research College Academy. There he hopes to explore careers in the maritime industry before heading to the Seattle Maritime Academy.
Question: You spent your summer on a boat in the Bering Sea. What were you doing?
Answer: I worked for the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, which does research for fisheries. … I focused on counting crab … We are the middle men. The government generally sets the catch limits really low, where the fishing companies want them really high. So we come in (and) say ‘here’s the data we have.’
Q: What was the process?
A: When we pulled up a net, which weighed anywhere from 700 to 2,000 pounds, it was weigh it to get an idea of the biomass. From there we dropped the crabs on the sorting table. Then you have to sort through everything, which took anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours. You sort the crabs by species and sex into baskets. From there you have to weigh the baskets.
Q: Did the crabs bite?
A: The bigger one kinda hurt, but they aren’t as bad as the Dungeness (crab) here. The crab we have around here are really aggressive. Where over there, they are so slow moving and lazy, you really have to be messing around with it for it to pinch you.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the experience?
A: I was kinda intimidated at first. The boat crew had years of experience out there. The scientific crew all had doctorates or dual masters. And here I am, just graduated my sophomore year.
And the weather. The boat never stops moving. Small waves were probably three to six feet, the biggest we faced were about 30 feet. Which are small compared to up there, because they get 50-foot waves in the winter time. If the boat rolls the right way, when the hull comes down it smacks against the wave. It sounds like a car just crashed into the front of the boat. You’re sleeping, sleeping then all of sudden at 2 o’clock in the morning the whole boat shudders.
Q: What was the best part?
A: There was more food than you could ever eat in the whole trip.
Q: What did you learn?
A: I learned more in that one month than probably in a semester of school. There’s so much to take in. There’s a lot of thinking on your feet and working through it.
Q: What was the longest you went without seeing land?
A: About 20 days. We went out for 10-15 days, then we went to Dutch Harbor to fix our centrifuge, which is kinda like a filter that cleans the diesel before we burn it. We had to go in there and get that replaced, then we could go back out. I think for another 20 days. We saw little islands here and there, but most of the time you couldn’t really see anything. Probably the weirdest thing was not seeing land and all the fog. It was foggy all the time up there.
Q: Why did you want to join the ORCA program?
A: Because of the really good opportunities and to get a head start. You graduate with your high school diploma but also an associate’s degree. So it’s a great way to get ahead and be able to figure out what you want to do.
Q: What are your plans?
A: I’m hoping to go into either diesel mechanics or refrigeration technician as my minor. And for my major get my second mates license. So I can be able to work on a marine vessel, ideally a research vessel.