Monday, September 12, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about factory trawling

Well, maybe not quite, but this Wesley Loy
article on American Seafoods Group gives a great head-start. I identify with this story since I've been around Norwegian-Americans all my life and my family came from Norway 105 years ago now. Having that deep-water heritage makes quite a difference.

Factory trawler in Seattle between seasons.

My father's grandfather had fished for cod in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway and sailed to Spain to trade them for oranges. Which he sold back in Norway for a lot better money than he could have gotten from his cod. Funny how international trade will do that.

But, later generations of Norwegian sea-farers have done very well in this country. Look at Petersburg, a settlement of Norwegians, who's celebration of Norwegian Independence Day on May 17, rivals their celebration of American Independence on July 4.

Petersburg was listed in the 1960 U.S. census as having the second highest income per capita of any place in the U.S. In the 1970 census it had the second highest number of millionaires per capita.
One Petersburg processing start-up, that has a local fisherman board of directors, has become one of the three titans of the traditional fisheries in Alaska; Icicle Seafoods. They have operations all over the state now.

I haven't been directly involved in the industrial scale fishing that goes on in the Bering Sea, but have poked around out there for State government and other interests. I did some consulting on the effort by the coastal villages to buy into trawlers after they were awarded Community Development Quotas.

The point? Keep your eyes on what the real smart money is doing? That's the best way to sort out all the rotten advice. Of course, you'll always be trying to catch up, and in the fishing business the first one into something gets the brass ring, the rest get consolation prizes. And you're not going to jump on American Seafoods bandwagon, it would be like trying to hop the bullet tain. Even though they are limited by law to 17.5% of the pollock fishery.

It's too bad that pollock is mostly water and the recovery rate is only 24%. But these factory ships do something with every bit of solid matter: surimi paste, roe for the Japanese market, and meal and oil from the rest. Hopefully they aren't roe-stripping anymore.

I don't know for sure, but a loan customer of mine once said their scallop beds were suffocated by the pollack carcasses dumped over in a pollock roe fishery. That was hard for me to imagine and I suspected something else was going on with this big red scallop rig they had acquired from the Louisana oil industry.


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