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Originally published May 7, 2013 at 6:06 AM | Page modified May 7, 2013 at 6:57 AM

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Blue North to build innovative, low-impact fishing vessel

A Seattle-based fishing company has contracted for construction of a new, low-emission vessel for hook-and-line fishing that it says could reduce fish discards to zero.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Blue North, a Seattle-based fisheries company operating in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, is announcing plans Tuesday for what it calls “one of the world’s most environmentally friendly” fishing vessels.

The company said it has signed a contract with Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes to build the boat.

Designed by Norwegian ship-design firm Skipsteknisk AS, the 191-foot longliner, model ST-155L, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The hook-and-line freezer fleet will produce both the lowest-impact and highest-quality Alaskan codfish available, Blue North President and CEO Kenny Down predicted.

“Every year, people care a little bit more about sustainability,” Down said.

While the company is typically focused on an international market where consumers in countries like Japan are more willing to pay a premium for the highest-quality fish, he said, “the timing is really perfect for the U.S. consumer to recognize this (better-quality) fish.”

Blue North said the boat will be the first in the U.S. constructed with an internal haul station, which enables the release of nontarget species and allows workers to remain inside of the boat as they work. Unlike boats using fishing nets that drag on the sea floor, the vessel’s hook-and-line system is designed to reduce detriment to the ocean and fish quality.

As opposed to the 50 percent fish discard rate of many current onboard processing hook-and-line vessels, the company aims for 100 percent use, Blue North said in a news release.

In 2010, Washington state lawmakers passed the Longline Catcher Processor Subsector Single Fishery Cooperative Act, a bipartisan bill designed to motivate commercial fishermen to take their time and reduce fish waste. The bill aimed to shift the industry from a race for catches to an allocated system where companies are guaranteed a certain amount of fish.

Blue North’s boat will be the first to abide by this year’s federal Tier III emission standards, Vice Chairman Patrick Burns said. It offers reduced emissions and a 30 percent savings in fuel consumption, compared with conventional designs, and about 20 percent less than Blue North’s own most recent model.

“This signals a major shift in the technology being used,” Burns said. “I really believe there’s going to be more vessels like this in the future.”

Alysa Hullett: 206-464-2718 or ahullett@seattletimes.com

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