Blue North launches state-of-the-art fishing vessel

Published on
September 12, 2016

Blue North is staking its future on sustainability – placing a multimillion-dollar bet that by taking steps to reduce its environmental impact and to harvest seafood more humanely, it can also grow profits.

On Friday, 9 September, the Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based company christened the F/V Blue North, a 191-foot fishing vessel designed to be the best on the market at achieving the company’s commitment to more humane and environmentally friendly operations. The company said the vessel cost USD 35 million (EUR 31.2 million).

The F/V Blue North is a hook-and-line, freezer-processor boat that will fish for cod in Alaskan waters.  The boat’s “green” features are groundbreaking for the industry, according to Blue North CEO Kenny Down. In a tour of the vessel given to SeafoodSource, Blue North representatives touted the ship’s innovative features.

A typical engine-cooling system on a commercial fishing boat runs cold seawater through the engine to cool it and then returns that water to the ocean. On the Blue North, the hot seawater is run through a reverse heat exchange system, capturing the energy and using it to heat the entire vessel, make hot water and run the fresh water-maker. By recapturing this energy, the boat relies less on its engines.

Additionally, engine power onboard is monitored by a smart grid that switches between several different-sized diesel engines for the most efficient use of fuel. If the computer system can detect a way to save fuel, it adjusts the use of its motors to achieve that. This type of engine platform will burn about 30 percent less fuel per hour than a traditional platform, Blue North officials said.

In the short term, these changes will make Blue North’s fishing more cost effective. In the long term, they will help ensure that the fishery exists in perpetuity, Down said.

“Blue North is dedicated to sustainable practices, and we spared no expense when it comes to the features we included on the F/V Blue North that reduce environmental impact,” Down said. “Not only are these practices more cost-effective, we believe that protecting our resources and environment is critical to the planet and the fishing industry.”

Blue North is also making innovative strides in how fish are caught and marketed. In 2014, the company launched its Humane Harvest Initiative at Seafood Expo North America in Boston. The initiative calls for new practices to be developed and implemented that will allow seafood to be harvested more humanely – similar to moves made recently in the chicken and beef industries.

On F/V Blue North, cod are stunned within seconds of being removed from the water. Hooks are removed after stunning to reduce stress to the fish. When stress is reduced, less adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into the flesh, improving the quality of the meat as well as nutritional value. Studies have shown that more humane harvesting of fish results in meat with higher levels of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as omega 3s.

Blue North will be implementing similar Humane Harvest platforms on all of its vessels and will use its Humane Harvest label to broach a market that has been relatively untouched by seafood companies: high-end consumers of organic, grass-fed, and free-range food products. From a business perspective, this market is attractive because products will receive a better dollar value – Blue North will be the only source for line-caught, frozen-at-sea, humanely harvested, product of the United States, cod fillets, Down said.

“We’re also able to keep all these ancillary products that on a traditional platform you don’t have the room for [since] you don’t have the labor to process it,” Down said.

Ancillary products will include livers, collars, stomachs, skins, and frames that can be sold in Japan, Korea and China. Because the cod quota is relatively stable – meaning that it’s not possible to make more money simply by catching more fish – Blue North is creating a higher profit margin by making more efficient use of the fish they are able to catch.

Contributing Editor reporting from the Pacific Northwest, USA

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