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How Many Crab Boats Have Sunk in the Bering Sea?

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how many crab boats have sunk in the bering sea

Over the years and decades, we’ve received regular news of the worst fishing accidents. When it comes to such tragedies, the Bering Sea is unfortunately infamous.

The very nature of the question, “How many crab boats have sunk in the Bering Sea?” already tells a grim tale. If you really want to know, the major toll currently sits at 4, and that’s only for crab boat sinkings that received extensive media coverage.

The boats are the Big Valley, Scandies Rose, Vestfjord, and Destination. Naturally, counting unreported accidents and other fishing vessels exacts a more horrid tally.

It’s Hard to Arrive at An Exact Figure About Crab Boat Sinkings

After all, if a crab boat is missing in the Bering Sea, is it every boat owner’s or skipper’s instinct to report it? Sure, there may be laws necessitating reporting a boating accident, but as in most cases, they’re not always easily enforced or followed.


This is especially true in the Bering Sea, which stretches for millions of square kilometers and is made up of areas that aren’t easily surveilled.

Also, whenever a crab boat sinks, it’s not like it will automatically gain media coverage. Sometimes, numbers are just mentioned in passing. For instance, an article in 2019 from The Seattle Times revealed that 4 Seattle crab boats sank in just a single month!

The boats mentioned in the introduction are “special” in the sense that they’re just the ones that made waves in the news. And, oftentimes, it’s because of the immense loss of life, how the accident happened, and the relative size of the vessel, which would have at least made it more capable of handling rougher seas and the Bering Sea’s icy conditions.


  • In the case of the Destination crab boat, a 98-footer, the entire crew perished. Just search for Destination sinking Alaska, and you’ll see the amount of sensation it produced.

Many experts have said the crab boat Destination sinks because its captain underestimated the ice buildup that compromised the vessel’s stability.

  • Spanning similar to the Destination at 98 feet, the Vesfjord also lost all its crew when it, unfortunately, met a deadly ice storm with its crab pots filled with catch.
  • The Big Valley crab boat was a 92-footer. Only one member of the crew made it. In this case, the added heft of the already excessive crab pots that the crew bought led to its and everyone onboard’s demise.
  • The Scandies Rose of Deadliest Catch fame spanned 130 feet with only 2 crew found. Similar to the Destination, it accumulated ice to the point that it could no longer handle it.

Worst Crab Boat Losses


Here’s a table of the worst losses that can twist anyone’s heart, but especially every sailor and boater out there:

Vessel Name Year Lost Number of Lives Lost
Vestfjord 1989 6
Big Valley 2005 5 (out of 6)
Destination 2017 6
Scandies Rose 2019 5 (out of 7)

Incidentally if you’ve been hearing buzz online that says the crab boat Northwestern sinks, that’s completely untrue. This vessel appeared on the Deadliest Catch as well, and as of this writing, it’s still operating.

Lastly, you may think that 4 seems to be a “marginal” number. But, again, these only take into account the notable accidents where lives were lost and, sadly, survivors only numbered a few.

If we’re going to make a complete list of fishing vessels lost in the Bering Sea, we’ll undoubtedly end up with a larger table that would be, albeit morbidly, more suitably presented in an Excel sheet.

Ultimately, each life lost is priceless and precious, and headlines like “Destination Crew Lost at Sea” can’t even begin to approximate such a tragedy’s impact on the family and loved ones they left behind.

Frequently Asked Questions


What was the last boat to sink in the Bering Sea?

Based on the table above and the latest media coverage, the last vessel to sink was the Scandies Rose. To be exact, it sank on December 31, 2019, and was verified to be out of service in 2020.

Obviously, there may be more recent crab boat sinkings that weren’t reported. So if you want a more accurate figure, it would be better to directly contact agencies with more authority in this regard, such as the US Coast Guard stationed in Kodiak.

Which crab boat sank on the Deadliest Catch?

Of the crab boats featured here, there are two: the Big Valley and Destination. The former is notable in that it’s one of the vessels featured in the show’s first few episodes.

The Destination isn’t really part of the show, per se. Rather, its story was told in Episode 15 of the 15th season back in 2019.

How many fishing boats sink in Alaska each year?

The average number of fishing vessels lost in Alaska is around 35. That amount only includes boats that are in the commercial industry, so expect the real total to be larger if we include private boats.


Based on what I’ve outlined above, the Bering Sea is nothing to be trifled with. Its challenging environment can quickly become any Alaska crab boat’s nightmare, no matter how big and seemingly capable it is.

It’s heartening, saddening, and eye-opening to know how many crab boats have sunk in the Bering Sea or in the ocean in any part of the world, for that matter. It only goes to show the kind of peril every fisherman and boater faces every time they earn their living.

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