Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Keeping Your Catch Cold

Cristy Fry


March 1, 2016

The three-day hands-on workshops allow vessel owners, engineers and crew the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of their systems. Photo courtesy of Marine Refrigeration Solutions.

Many Processors are moving forward with their mission of improving fish quality. A large number of Bristol Bay Fishermen have received letters stating that their processors will no longer be accepting dry fish and ice will not be made available as early as 2017. Fishermen may find themselves caught in a fog as to how ready their boats for this requirement. Vessel owners will need information and support fast.

Educational opportunities and consultations by a qualified Marine Refrigeration technician are great ways to learn about the equipment and how to install it in the most cost effective way to protect your catch and bottom line.

Doug Cannon and Mendi Jenkins of Marine Refrigeration Solutions predicted that this trend was inevitable and therefore put resources in place to help fishermen make as smooth a transition as possible.

"Cannery engineers have been called upon to service RSW equipment on board vessels for years. I've been told that this creates a liability on the processor, and fishermen should not come to rely on this to keep their equipment running. We saw the need to educate fishermen so that they can feel confident about operating and maintain this equipment themselves." Mendi stated.

Marine Refrigeration Solutions provides training with regards to how to purchase the right unit for specific fishing needs onboard all types of vessels, project management and training for marine refrigeration installation and operations.

Cannon's 27-year background has helped him develop a certification class and has set an industry standard of system operation. The three-day workshops he teaches are hands-on, allowing vessel owners, engineers and crew the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of their systems. The UAF, SAVEC and the BBEDC are sponsoring this more intensive class in March for their Watershed Residents continuing education and offering grant programs to promote fish quality in Bristol Bay.

Marine Refrigeration Solutions is based out of Dillingham Alaska before and during the fishing season to support Bristol Bay Fishermen.

Sea Grant has been studying and gathering information about the importance of chilling fish for many years, and they have a wealth of information and videos on their website:

MAP agent Gabe Dunham points out the business advantages of knowing your system.

Educated operators can save money by knowing what parts of a system are serviceable by the operator, and what parts should be left to the able hands of a technician.

There are also decreased start-up costs. Some applications require, for example, an RSW system to be dormant for long periods of time, necessitating a specific storage and start-up procedure. If an operator has been trained to perform this procedure, he may be able to save money by doing these steps himself.

Also, Dunham says, it is virtually inevitable that every mechanical thing will at some point require repair. "The difference is under what circumstances an operator has to deal with the repair," he says. "Trying to diagnose a problem over the phone with a technician while bobbing around with a load of warm fish on board will be much easier if the operator knows the difference between a king vs. a queen valve."

And then there are the safety concerns.

Refrigerant can displace oxygen, and this is a big deal in a relatively small, enclosed space like a fishing vessel. Trained operators understand that during system operation refrigerant is not consumed, and leaks are not normal.

Also, someone who lacks the proper knowledge should not mess with some things. Knowledge about what NOT to do, especially while the system is running, can prevent damage to an expensive system that could also lead to more downtime.

Approximately 204 fishermen took the 3-day Certification course in 2015. Cameron Hagen of Alaska praised the insight he received.

"I took the class before I had bought or worked with RSW. I thought to myself 2 years later, 'what did I really get out of the class?' I realized that I got complete understanding about buying, installing and using RSW. Now it's second nature to me to operate my system with ease because I went into it with this knowledge."

Educated operators can save money by knowing what parts of a system are serviceable by the operator, and what parts are not. Photo courtesy of Marine Refrigeration Solutions.

"This class cleared up all of the questions that I had about the RSW system," said Kris Straub, who fishes our of Bristol Bay and Kodiak. "I understand what to look for and when I should call a tech."

Pete Kramer, another Bristol Bay Fisherman, said, "If you own and/or operate an RSW system...Take this class."

Fishermen face competition from foreign and farmed sources, and consumers have become more educated and discerning. The need to deliver cold, quality product has increased exponentially.

Consistently bringing quality fish to market increases market share and loyalty, as well as increasing prices.

Proper fish handling practices as well as being able to quickly bring fish down to temperature and keep it there every trip benefits all fishermen.

Cristy Fry is a fisherman from Homer who also does freelance writing relating to commercial fishing. She can be reached at


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