Deadliest Catch Nears Deadline On Settling With Angry Captains

The Discovery Channel issued a statement Monday officially announcing something that's been an open secret for weeks: Josh and Jake Harris, and their late father Phil's old boat the Cornelia Marie, will be returning to Deadliest Catch when the seventh season of the reality hit returns in 2011. Cornelia Marie is now captained by Derrick Ray, who viewers saw at the helm late last season following the fatal stroke suffered by Capt. Phil.

However, Discovery still has said nothing on the record about the dispute between the channel and Time Bandit captains Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand, which led to last week's announcement that neither the brothers, nor their friend and Northwestern captain Sig Hansen, would be appearing on the show this year.

Hansen's brother Edgar made a subsequent public comment suggesting that it might still be possible for Northwestern to return, leading to speculation that the channel and the Hillstrands have been discussing a settlement to the $3 million suit Discovery filed charging that the brothers had abandoned a planned special partway through production.

However, there is little time left to negotiate, as boats will leave for the Bering Sea next week at the outset of king crab season. Has Discovery made plans for a Deadliest Catch season without Northwestern and Time Bandit? Monday's statement mentioned only the Harris brothers and Cornelia Marie, although two other boats, Wizard and Kodiak, were also part of the most recent season. One has to assume the channel has some kind of Plan B designed to preserve the viability of its most popular show.