Deadliest catch windfall: show brings viewers and feasibly wealth to Alaska.

Author:Kaminis, Markos N.


The February passing of Capt. Phil Harris, the skipper of the crabbing vessel Cornelia Marie, made national news and caught the world's attention in the process. In case you have been lost at sea since its 2005 debut, you should know that Capt. Phil and his ship star on the Discovery Channel's hit show, Deadliest Catch. Phil's boat is but one of scores of fishing vessels that set out each prime time season for Chionoecetes opilio crab, known more commonly as snow crab. In its relatively short lifespan, the series detailing the adventures of Alaska crabbers, has become one of the most popular programs on cable television. Deadliest Catch's Tuesday April 27 episode, the last before press time, produced television ratings that placed it as the No. 1 prime time non-sports cable program that evening.

The death of this otherwise anonymous, tatoo-riddled seaman had made national news, and the realization hit just how important this unique television program had become. Eyes were opened by the fact the five-year-old program has been a significant, though perhaps stealth, PR vessel for the state of Alaska. The program has been important for Alaska fishing, and is the Alaska image on the minds of many Americans. It could also inspire Alaska's business community to strategize about how to best leverage the show's PR pull going forward.


Alaska Business Monthly did not expect to see "opilio," as Deadliest Catch crewmen call them, on the American menu, as was confirmed by a survey of Red Lobster, Landry's Seafood House, McCormick & Schmick's and Legal Sea Foods, four of the nation's more important chains. While the scientific name of the snow crab may sound cool because of its infrequent usage, the big chains are not yet betting it can open the appetite of its diners for shellfish. Nor, it seems, have they noticed how often the term "opilio" is referred to on the hit show.

However, Hawgs Seafood Bar, with its three eateries in trendy California, goes as far as to highlight its "opilio" crab sandwich on the menu. An Examiner restaurant review of the place, within which the critic spent a fifth of the article talking about how neat it was to be eating crab that could have been captured by Deadliest Catch crewmen, is exactly the impression hoped by Alaskans.

Laurie Fagnani, president of Alaska advertising and public relations firm, MSI Communications, agrees. "There's no doubt it has generated increased demand for...

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