December 09, 2019

Meet the Maritime Engineer Who Does the Heavy Lifting


Maritime Engineer Aaron Braaen in the engine room of the American Triumph

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

Teach a man to fish, and stock his fishing boat with a small gym, and he'll become a champion bodybuilder. Is that how the story goes?

It is for Aaron Braaten, an engineer with American Seafoods. At sea he works aboard the American Triumph, a boat that catches Wild Alaska Pollock in the Bering Sea and Wild Pacific Whiting in the Pacific Northwest. On land he made a name for himself as a competitive bodybuilder in the United States, winning titles and planning to go pro in 2020.

"At the shows I've done people will say, 'You did this on a fishing boat? There's no way,'" Aaron said.

Aaron had a will, so he found a way. He competed in the sport as a teenager in the '80s, stopping when he found full-time work in Seattle. Before long, he signed up for his first fishing job as a processor for American Seafoods. Aaron worked his way up to positions as an oiler and an engineer.

"American Seafoods has always been a family to me," he said, with a fun competitive feeling between ships and a crew that brought a sense of home and belonging.

About three years ago, Aaron felt a longing for his bodybuilding days. He wanted to get into shape, and decided a return to heavy lifting was the way to do it.

Aaron knew he'd need two things to succeed. First was support from the company, which he received unequivocally. Management granted him permission to keep a few weights on board, and his crewmates encouraged him to follow his passion.

He also needed protein. Lots of protein. Luckily, he sat on a boatload.

"I don't have access to beef the way I like to cook it. So I started eating Wild Alaska Pollock," Aaron said. "I'm on a pollock boat. Why wouldn't I?"

His training regimen between shifts and dedication to a protein-packed diet paid off when he won his first show, the 2018 Northern Classic. About 90 percent of his prep work was done while on the Triumph.

That's when he took the Wild Alaska Pollock story to land. Aaron found an audience for his passion at competitions, full of heavy lifters who are curious about the latest trends in protein. He tells them about the mild taste, lack of an intense fishy smell, high protein, and reasonable price point.

Aaron learned quickly that those aren’t just benefits for heavy lifters – he felt healthier while working on the Triumph, too. He even spreads his passion for Wild Alaska Pollock as a protein source to other crewmembers, who see his progress and ask him for fitness advice.

"To see someone walking around many pounds lighter, and to help people feel better out here is a joy to me," he said. "And then they'll take that information home with them."

Aaron’s bodybuilding friends love what he takes home, too.

He gets emails that ask him, “Hey man, when are you coming home?”

Then they add, “Are you bringing Wild Alaska Pollock?”


Who’s On Board is a series profiling the hardworking crew members on the six fishing vessels operated by American Seafoods. Check back soon for more!

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