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What Happened To The F/V Big Valley On Deadliest Catch?

Throughout the 19 seasons of "Deadliest Catch" so far, we've seen a wide variety of crab fishing vessels take on the harrowing conditions of the Bering Sea. Some of the most iconic ships that are still featured in the series today include Jake Anderson's F/V Saga, "Wild" Bill Wichrowski's F/V Summer Bay, Johnathan Hillstrand's F/V Time Bandit, Keith Colburn's F/V Wizard, and Sig Hansen's F/V Northwestern.

Although these might be the most recognizable ships to ever appear in "Deadliest Catch," there are dozens of other shipping vessels that have appeared only briefly within the series — and even more that have never had a dedicated film crew set up shop on their decks. One such ship is the F/V Big Valley, which longtime fans will remember was mentioned and seen briefly in Season 1 of "Deadliest Catch," and which ultimately suffered a terrible fate on January 16, 2005.

Shortly after the start of the 2005 crab fishing season, the F/V Big Valley sank 70 miles off the coast of St. Paul Island, which is nearly 750 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska. Five of the six crew members aboard died in the tragic accident, including skipper Gary Edwards, Danny Vermeersch, Josias Luna, Carlos Rivero, and Aaron Marrs. The only survivor of this tragedy was Cache Seel, who clung to a life raft and waited for help to arrive. Season 1, Episode 6, titled "Man Overboard," chronicles the rest of the fleet's reaction to this disaster, as they mourn their fallen comrades and desperately search for survivors.

The F/V Big Valley changed the crab fishing industry forever

In a later interview with The Seattle Times, Cache Seel recalled the hectic and terrifying nature of this accident, which began late in the night. "I have no idea what happened. I was asleep when it started to roll over on its starboard side," said Seel, who could only recall fleeting images of waves and smoke before he found the life raft. "I was just getting raked, knocked around. Everything was pretty frantic."

While there was no clear cause immediately after the F/V Big Valley disaster, a subsequent investigation by the United States Coast Guard found that the ship was severely overloaded at the time that it sank, carrying 30% more weight than was usual, which may have had an effect on the vessel's stability at sea. The tragedy was one of many incidents that led the Coast Guard to crack down on overloading in 2005, introducing the Crab Rationalization plan to discourage the "derby-style" fishing that had previously encouraged overloading for the sake of profit.

Longtime viewers will know that this shift from derby-style fishing to "rationalization" caused a major upheaval within the wider crab fishing industry, as the fleet shrank from 250 boats to around 90 larger vessels, many of which are still a part of "Deadliest Catch" to this day. Although the F/V Big Valley only appeared in Season 1 of "Deadliest Catch," its tragic sinking helped change the entire crab fishing industry, and forever altered the trajectory of the series.