The love of water is common for those who choose a career in commercial diving. But Jake Green, a graduate of Divers Institute of Technology, had another passion that drove him into the business: fishing.
When asked why he went into commercial diving, he responded “The only thing I hadn’t done was go under the water, and it was always something I wanted to try.”
His passion for fishing combined and eagerness to pursue a new venture led him to an unusual line of work: dive harvesting.
The Creation of an Outstanding Diver
Jake was a native of the northwest, so DIT was an obvious choice in terms of proximity. It wasn’t until he got out in the field that he realized the superior training he received by choosing to attend there.
“I saw a lot of guys in aquaculture that weren’t as well trained [as me], and should have been better trained,” he says.
He saw the difference in training during mandatory bail-out drills he and his co-workers would go through. During these drills he describes himself as “obsessive-compulsive” in regards to preparation and safety, as opposed to some of his teammates who didn’t take the drills quite so seriously.
Jake attributes this high regard for safety to his training at DIT. He says preparing for each dive and putting safety first is something that was drilled into him. “It’s something you have to have in the diving world,” he says. And it’s something that has consumed him ever since.
Geoducking: A Serious Business
After graduating in November 2011, Jake got a job working as a dive harvester on a geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) farm. Geoducks are a type of clam that is not often heard of, but flourish in the oceans of the Pacific Northwest.
In the geoducking field, Jake explains that safety is not taken as seriously as it should be, and many divers go into the jobs unprepared.
Jake’s obsession with safety is one reason he eventually decided to start his own company. He was tired of working under people he felt had lost their motivation to work hard. He wanted to be able to work for himself and know the job he was doing was being done the right way.
Expert Diver, Harvester, and Business Owner
After a couple years in the field, Jake mustered his determination and began working towards having his own dive harvesting business.
He bought a dive boat and various diving supplies.
He got permits to start a diving business.
And he made some difficult sacrifices.
“It took a couple of years living on almost nothing,” he says. But after a lot of money and hard work, his efforts eventually paid off.
Jake now owns a thriving dive harvesting business gathering and selling geoducks, sea cucumber, and sea urchins, and installing desalination units.
The Ups and Downs of Flying Solo
For Jake, having his own business means not having to work under someone else. It means having the freedom to set his own schedule. It means being able to work and earn as much money as he can. And it means confidence that the jobs he is doing are being done right.
But having his own dive harvesting business is not all rainbows and butterflies.
Dangers and Disadvantages
One of his roles is harvesting sea cucumbers. This job involves trying to gather the sea cucumbers off the seafloor while being towed behind a moving boat. The diver (or Jake, in this case) is attached to the boat by a cord that supplies oxygen, called the umbilical. He is then pulled by the umbilical.
“Live boating,” he says, “is not the safest. But it’s pretty exciting. Getting pulled by the umbilical is one of the most dangerous things you can do as a diver.”
The risks for harvest divers are numerous. From losing connection with the umbilical to moving into unknown, treacherous conditions underwater.
“You need a lot of experience to do this,” says Jake. “You have to watch what’s coming ahead of you and communicate with the boat operator, all while trying to pull product off the bottom.”
But the risks don’t intimidate Jake. With experience and a cautious attitude, he knows he’ll not only survive each day, but he’ll reap a nice reward.
However, he faces another disadvantage. Dive harvesting is a common field where Jake lives, and that means a lot of competition. And not everyone has the same standards Jake has.
“There’s a lot of guys doing it,” he says. “You have to do other dive work to stand out.”
A Small, But Sweet Operation
Jake mostly runs a two to three man operation. He does the diving while another guy drives the boat and another one does the tending.
Jake enjoys this small team. “It’s nice working with a small group of people you trust,” he says.
Jake has definitely found a sweet spot as a diver. With good training, a hard work ethic, and a little experience, Jake is enjoying all the benefits of being a self-employed diver. And whatever dangers and difficulties he faces only serve to make him a better diver.
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