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Shutdown Over, Northwest Fisherman Hope To Get Back To Work In Alaska

Lauren Rosenthal
Fishing boats wait in port in Alaska's Aleutian Islands

The partial government shut down may be over but the impacts are still being felt. One casualty has been the start of the Alaska king crab season.

A lot of Northwest fishermen earn part of their living from that catch, and they're still sitting in port without pay Thursday .

Right now, the crew of the crab boat Handler would usually "be making bait and getting ready to set our gear to go fishing," says Daniel White of Bellingham, Wash. "That's what we do. Now we just come out here to sit."

Like most fishermen here, White and the Handler crew are from the Pacific Northwest. And they’re stuck in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, waiting for the federal government to reopen and issue them the permits they need to start fishing.

They already missed opening day. And even if the government gets back on its feet right away, it would still take the National Marine Fisheries Service about a week to issue permits.

The Handler’s captain, Joshua Songstad, says his crew is trying not to think about it.

"There are always projects to do on the boat," he says. "Although we try to break it up a bit by going to the gym and try to stay out of the bars as much as possible."

Bored fishermen and bars are usually a recipe for disaster. But Songstad says the lack of pay should actually help with that:

"Fortunately the longer this goes on, the less money people have to spend on drinking," he says.

And at this point, that’s the only silver lining of the shutdown.