, Salem, MA


March 13, 2013

A living from the sea

Danvers market owner used to fish for crabs in dangerous waters

DANVERS — Darryl Parker knows what it’s like to work on a commercial fishing boat in the perilous, icy waters of the Bering Sea, as in the hit TV show “Deadliest Catch.”

It’s considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, as fishing crews battle 25- to 35-foot waves to catch king crab.

With the award-winning show entering its ninth season next month, Parker, 60, reflected on his fishing days before moving back to his hometown and buying Cherry Street Fish Market 30 years ago. The market is now located at 26 Hobart St.

Growing up on Riverside Avenue in Danvers, Parker was drawn to the ocean from a young age. He was working on a lobster boat off Cape Cod from 1976 to 1978 when he got a phone call from friends living in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak Island in Alaska.

“They said, ‘You got to get out here. There is so much money,’” Parker recalled. “It was kind of like a gold rush.”

So, he headed to Alaska in search of a job in what was then considered the “Wild West” of the fishing industry.

“I would see boats come in, and I would walk down to the docks asking if they needed a deckhand,” he said. “That is how I got work at first.”

Parker’s work was similar to the television show, he said, but more dangerous, because of the lack of safety regulations for the boats and a different quota system that fueled higher competition among the different crews.

There was the time on the Iron Head, a schooner-style boat, when a fellow crew member went overboard. He remembers the captain struggling to maneuver the boat closer to the man so they could throw a buoy to him.

“We thought we were going to lose him,” Parker said. “You just focus on what you have to do to get him back to the boat. There is no real preparing for a situation like that.”

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