Understanding that the value of a catch derives largely from the quality of equipment used, the world's fleets are looking to manufacturers of fishing gear for innovation. At a time when long-term conservation ideas include not just quotas, but the decommissioning of vessels, it has become a priority to renew the profitability of the boats that remain.
The skippers and caretakers of world fishing fleets, as well as the people working in the processing plants, all agree that the integrity of the fishing industry chain - from a vessel's first echo-survey to the filleting line - has become more important than ever. The buoyancy of the industry depends on quality at every stage of handling.
Durable, modern fishing gear that finds, harvests and preserves high-quality fish has helped Norwegian fishermen maintain their advantage at sea, an advantage Norway's gear manufacturers now willingly export. Norwegian purse seine nets - traditionally used for catching surface-schooling species such as herring, mackerel and tuna remain a popular export. Automated longlines, dragged directly from a below-water hull port, demonstrate how innovative on-board equipment has changed the way an industry thinks. Automated deck equipment, such as Rapp Hydema's programmable trawl and purse seine winches, imposes modern automated controls on traditional machinery. The result is improved catch handling and efficient operations.
When the experienced fishing fleets of northern Spain and Portugal recently decided to invest in efficiency via new equipment, they turned to accomplished Norwegian manufacturer, SM Triplex AS. For the Portuguese, it was the first major fleet upgrade in 30 years and included complete sets of deck machinery - winches, cranes and net stackers - as well as the backing of Eksportfinans ASA, the export-financing arm of the Norwegian Government. While looking to build new vessels, the Spanish fleet was also keen to renew the usefulness of older boats, and the patented SM Triplex AS Tri-Roller winch was ordered to improve catch handling. Customers from fishing nations as diverse as Scotland, Turkey, Italy and New Zealand have turned to Norwegian manufacturers when renewing their fishing fleets and gear, and Norwegian companies are targeting promising new markets in Southeast Asia, the Baltic States and the far eastern Russian fishery regions of Kamchatka, Vladivostock, and the Sakhalin Islands.
Norway's fishing fleet is diversified and technologically advanced and, at over 13,000 vessels, is one of the world's largest: It comprises everything from one-man sjarks (small inshore fishing vessels) to large trawlers and purse seiners. Of these, a number are equipped with machinery for on-board processing - another qualitative link toward efficiency and profitability, and a specialty of Norwegian ship designers Vik-Sandvik AS and builders AS Eidsvik Skipsbyggeri. At research institutions such as SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, targeted research programmes help domestic and international shipyards to offer designs that employ economies of scale within a ship's confines. Studying fish survivability characteristics has paid off by providing the basis for designs enabling the catch to remain onboard while awaiting various stages of processing.
Shipside fish handling now readies the product for market. Fishing-industry outfitters Odim Skodje AS handles fish-processing logistics for ship or shore and is a leading supplier of integrated and turnkey solutions. The company designs, plans and implements solutions in close cooperation with its customers, helping them to increase productivity with lasting, efficient systems. A broad range of fishing vessels - trawlers, shrimp trawlers, longliners, gill netters and purse seiners - now benefit from Odim's simple solutions or advanced computer-controlled processing lines.
Factoring in Freshness
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a quarter of the fish caught for human consumption in developing countries is lost through waste and spoilage. Inspired by the need to reduce loss and spur food production, Norway is funding a research programme to promote fisheries management expertise in developing countries. The programme currently focuses on small tropical fisheries and the large pelagic stocks off the coasts of Chile, Namibia, Peru and South Africa. A range of Norwegian innovations are helping the industry to keep today's precious catches healthy until they can be processed, and one way to ensure quality is to transport fish live from the harvest site directly to market.
The Institute of Marine Research in Bergen collaborated with a Norwegian shipyard and the Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture to develop an on-board tank capable of carrying 700 kg of live plaice per cubic metre, virtually without loss. Part of the Norut Group of research centres, the Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture has also designed a flat-bottom meshed cage for storing live fish, including deep-water species, until they are sold or processed. The new cage, patented internationally and marketed by Norwegian firm Refa AS, has boosted the survival rate of cod from 50 to 95 per cent. Nearly 90 per cent of the fish harvested in Norway is exported, so quality is crucially important.
Guarantees of freshness are also needed for fish that is not transported and delivered live to market. Optimar AS, a Norwegian refrigeration system specialist, has discovered that adding ozone to the water in which fish is stored lowers bacteria levels, staves off mould, inhibits odours and keeps fish fresh longer. Freshness is of particular concern to the fisheries of the Southern Hemisphere. Chilled fish that is too soft when transferred from a fishing vessel to a processing plant often turns to pulp and is flushed away in wastewater. To combat the erosion of catch value, the Norwegian ice-plant manufacturer Finsam Refrigeration AS has worked extensively with fishermen in Chile and Peru to develop equipment that mixes ice evenly in with the catch.
In the Same Boat
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development identifies 60 per cent of the world's fisheries as being heavily worked, making fierce competition the name of the game. The writing on the wall, according to the UN, suggests that measures to rebuild depleted fish stocks should include a reduction of government subsidies to cut excess fishing capacity and the creation of national marine protected areas. The latter means that trawlers will have to spend more than their average 7 days at sea, seeking quality fish in unrestricted areas further afield.
Norwegian and international fishing vessels are already subject to stringent controls in Norwegian waters, and the trend continues across the fishing grounds of most nations. Controls applied at sea and during the landing of a catch are being added to those aimed at preventing the harvest of juvenile fish. Norwegian gear manufacturers are ready with improved designs. Moreover, under the aegis of the UN, governments are attempting to agree on fishing treaties and codes along the lines of those brokered by Norway with Russia, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark and Iceland. Also under UN supervision, the Marine Stewardship Council is promoting a system of eco-labelling or certification for fish products. Their aim is to achieve top-quality products, equal competition between fishery operators and responsible management of fisheries resources.