A new longliner set to enter Alaska’s cod hook-and-line fishery in October 2014 will offer state-of-the-art environmental and safety advantages, and an ultimate goal of 100 percent utilization of the versatile fish harvested by Blue North Fisheries.
“It’s the biggest story to hit the waterfront in Seattle in a long time,” said Kenny Down, Blue North president and chief executive officer. “It’s really cool.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-WA), heralded the announcement, saying the new vessel would “support shipbuilding jobs in Anacortes while adding to a strong legacy of building cutting-edge fishing vessels in Washington state.”
The vessel, designed by Skipsteknisk AS, a Norwegian ship design firm, will be built by Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington, Blue North officials said May 7.
The 191-foot, $30 million-plus hook-and-line vessel, will be the only freezer longliner in the Alaska fisheries with a fillet line, and safety features that include heated indoor working space to gaff each fish coming into the moon pool, from a line coming up through the bottom of the boat.
“They have engineered this so that in seven-meter seas with 20-foot waves, the level of water in the moon pool will only fluctuate half a meter,” said Pat Burns, vice president of Blue North.
For crew, the internal haul station means they will no longer be exposed to rough seas and freezing temperatures for hours on end, and the risk of falling overboard during hauling is reduced. The vessel also is being built with a heavily weighted box keel design, to keep weight low, as well as an anti-roll tank. These features combine to provide an extremely stable working platform, further enhancing safety factors and crew comforts designed into every detail of the vessel.
The internal haul station will also help reduce bycatch mortality, Down and Burns said. According to the International Pacific Halibut Commission the halibut bycatch mortality is 10 percent, based on a 10-year rolling average, but Blue North’s goal is to cut that loss to 5 percent. The hook-and-line gear itself will leave a greatly reduced environmental footprint on the bottom of the ocean, they said.
“The attention to crew comfort is so important,” Down said. “It’s so much safer.
All the staterooms are one man or two man staterooms, each with its own head.”
“We typically sail with about 22 crew, so we should be able to sail with the same amount of crew and with the automation and the factory (on board) they will be able to work on ancillary products, so we’ll be able to put out more product with the same amount of people,” Burns said.
The Blue North, which will head for the Bering Sea fisheries in October 2014, will probably do four-week trips, with the freezer cargo capacity for about 1.5 million pounds of frozen product, including those cod heads, which will be sold in Africa as a source of protein.
“There are robust markets for these other parts of the fish,” Down said.
While the market for cod is currently a little soft, “we have no problems at all selling our fish,” Down said. “I would say the demand for this product is very high. We will still sell wholesale, but we will also offer a variety of consumer ready products, that will go directly from our vessel to distributors. The vessel is designed to produce boneless cod fillets, cod loins, and a host of vacuum-packed consumer-ready cod products on board. Each fish will be individually handled, immediately processed and frozen within minutes of processing.
Blue North currently sends about 10 percent of its yearly catch to domestic markets, primarily located in the Boston area,” said Lance Magnuson, managing director of Blue North Trading Co., and president of the Alaska Longline Cod Commission. “We believe that this new vessel’s production will open up further domestic markets, so that Americans can take pleasure in the same quality fish as foreign markets have enjoyed for many years.”
“It’s amazing to us that this hook-and-line Alaska cod is not available to most US consumers,” he said. “They want a product that they can purchase, throw in the oven and have on the table, and that product is not really (currently) available in this kind of quality.”
Blue North products will be also be sold in traditional global markets, including Japan, Norway, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Brazil, and demand is also increasing in China, company officials said.
Plans are to efficiently utilize proteins currently going to waste, and that said, the new Blue North vessel will focus not on catching more fish, but onboard processing that will use more of the fish that are caught. Every consumable product will be retained, including the liver, stomach, roe, milt and head. Currently many hook-and-line fleets that process onboard only use the dressed fish, or 50 percent of the entire weight. The rest of the fish is ground up and discharged overboard, due to lack of space, refrigeration capacity or onboard labor.
“This present practice is extremely wasteful and inefficient,” Down said. “We believe we can implement significant processing changes that will make considerable sustainability and efficiency differences.”
The new vessel will also offer lower emissions and fuel savings of an estimated 30 percent or more, compared to conventional designs. The vessel will be cleaner too, thanks in part to the unique use of diesel electric twin-bladed dual-azimuth propulsion, and the boat will be one of the first fishing vessels in the United States built to meet new Tier III emissions standards set by the federal government.
The vessel will feature a molded or formed hull, which has a more efficient flow through the water because of decreased resistance.
“This boat is the culmination of 30 years in business,” said Michael Burns, Blue North’s chairman. “Not only is it cutting edge in terms of technology, the environment, safety, and comfort for the crew, but it’s also a beautiful vessel.”
Blue North Fisheries, in operation since 1983, currently owns and operates eight head and gut freezer longliners and one crab catcher vessel. The company harvests and processes a variety of fish, mostly longlined Pacific cod, black cod, pollock and turbot, as well as opilio and king crab.