Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sun Rises on Delta's New Widebodies

Delta Marine was founded in Seattle in the early 1960s, when brothers Ivor and Jack Jones opened the yard on Seattle's Duwamish Riverfront and began building high-speed pleasure boats. In 1970 the company found there was a need for high-quality, sturdy fishing vessels, so they built their first commercial fishing boat – the 33-foot Tanaga. The boat was a hit, and orders started coming in. In 1971, Delta built ten more fishing vessels, and by 1976 the yard was building boats at a rate of more than 3.5 a month. In 1977 Delta Marine turned out 65 boats, most of which were fishing boats.

The speed at which the yard produced the vessels didn't detract from their quality. Fishermen all along the West Coast, including those fishing in the harsh Alaska environment, swore by the seaworthy craft. The Delta name was synonymous with quality and efficiency, for good reason. Most of the hundreds of commercial boats built between 1970 and 1993 are still actively fishing.

As popular as the Delta vessels were with commercial fishermen, by the mid 1980s the company could see a change coming to the fishing industry. Chris Jones is the company's project manager and son of founder Jack Jones. "We saw the fishing industry slowing, and the demand and need for new construction was slowing down as well," he says. After 317 fishing boats, the company refocused on the pleasure craft market, and geared up to build a series of five 70-foot yachts. The new 70s were well received, and almost overnight Delta moved being from prolific suppliers of quality fishing vessels to premium yacht builders. "We were all of a sudden busy building yachts," Jones says. "We found we didn't have the resources to focus on yachts and still build fishing boats."

From 1993 until 2012, Delta built a string of luxury yachts, in lengths ranging from 54 to 236 feet. While not as prolific as the more utilitarian fishing boats, the company currently has is 43rd yacht under construction.

Located on 25 acres of industrial land on Seattle's Duwamish Riverfront, Delta Marine now has nearly 300,000 square feet of covered manufacturing space in a state-of-the-art facility. The yard features covered refit bays and a marine Travelift capable of lifting 440 tons. The yard also has the support of the Delta Design Group of designers and naval architects. The company houses all the marine trades on site, and sources as many American-made products and supplies as possible. Jones says yacht building technology has improved every year. "We have CNC routers and other machinery we didn't have before."

Jones says the biggest change to the boatbuilding process with this new string of boats is the construction methods Delta employs. "Where our composite boats were hand laid before, we now use a vacuum infusion process," he says. "The buildings have been upgraded, we've added overhead cranes... the facility has changed a lot."

Something that hasn't changed, Jones says, is the company's attention to detail. "We still build a clean, well-built product," he says. "The roots are the same." Delta has kept busy building world-class yachts. Jones says.

Even though the product had changed, Delta hadn't left the fishing business.

The company was still seeing fishing clients while building pleasure craft. "We were still talking to our fishing clients," he says. "We kept the relationships open, and our clients kept bringing their boats back every year to have maintenance or upgrades done."

Jones says the company entertained the idea of going back to fishing boats, "There was demand from the market, and it felt like the perfect storm to build a new 58-foot wide body seiner... the fishing industry was on a rise and our production schedule allowed us space to fit one in.

That relationship with the fishing industry led Delta to build a brand new seiner for client Steve Feenstra. The 58-foot by 23-footF/V Sequel was the first Delta "widebody" 58-footer in 20 years. Feenstra is a second-generation fisherman, whose family has been fishing Delta boats for years. "The Delta boats are some of the best boats ever built," says Feenstra. "I wouldn't build a fiberglass boat anywhere else." Feenstra knows about fishing and boats. He grew up fishing with his father and brothers. "I've run a lot of Deltas – I grew up with Deltas," he says. "I always wanted one, and now I've got one."

The Sequel was started by Delta without a contract or customer. "They built the hull before I got involved," Feenstra says. Much of the work had already been done on the boat when Feenstra became involved. "I designed the wheelhouse, and lengthened my bunk," he says. "Otherwise it was pretty well finished."

Delta has since delivered two more 58-foot widebodies, the F/V Invincible and F/V Rising Sun. Phil Fogle, owner of theInvincible, echoes Feenstra in his praise of the Delta boats. "They're first class," he says. "I've always wanted one." Fogle took delivery of his Delta in March of last year, and couldn't be happier. "The hull design is sleek, but with the wide body it packs 165,000 lbs. of fish," he says. "At the same time, it's fast and fuel efficient."

Dick Miller took delivery of the F/V Rising Sun earlier this year, and the boat is currently fishing for Dungeness crab at Westport, Washington.

"The boat's awesome," Miller says. "They don't get any better – real Delta quality." Miller has owned two Deltas before the Rising Sun, a 53-foot boat and a 58-footer. "This one's the Cadillac of them all," he says. He attributes the build quality to "all that yacht-building they've been doing" over the last 20 years. "The interior is unbelievable," Miller says, "and in the engine room, everything is stainless."
Miller believes a Delta is the finest fiberglass boat you can build. "That's the only place I'd build a boat," he says, pointing out that Delta has been building fishing boats for 40 years. "They're all still fishing," he says. "They're just as good as the day they came out of the yard."

All three of the new boats were designed by Delta's in-house naval architects, with the hull design based on the original hull design of the 1990s widebodies, Jones says, with slight changes to the house and mast.

The new Delta boats benefit from the company's decades of experience building working vessels for some of the toughest places in the world, combined with twenty year's of world-class yacht construction. The yard is currently building a fourth 58-foot by 27-foot boat, this one to a design by Pacific Northwest naval architect Hal Hockema. The hull is complete, and is ready to receive a composite house. The new boat will have two holds with a total capacity of 3,342 cubic feet, as well as a large bait hold with freezer. Chris Jones says the boat can be ready for delivery in September.

To judge by the owners of the three new Delta boats, the owner of the fourth will be very happy with his purchase.

ComFish 2014 Addresses Market Trends, Technology, And More

ComFish 2014, Kodiak’s annual commercial fishermen’s forum and trade show, opens on Thursday, April 17, with an agenda offering information on everything from market trends and new energy technologies to environmental news updates.

Lead seafood analyst Andy Wink of the McDowell Group in Juneau, will speak about market trends. Father Joshua Resnick, of St. Innocent’s Academy, and owner of Kodiak Electric Vessel LLC, will discuss new energy technologies. And Martin Loefflad, director of NOAA’s North Pacific Observer Program, with Nancy Munro, of Saltwater Inc. will do a presentation on observer programs and electronic monitoring projects.

Also on the first day’s agenda is an open meeting with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Alan Risenhoover, NOAA”s director of Sustainable Fisheries, and a fish taco feed at the Kodiak Island Brewery, hosted by Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Alaska Jig Association.

The second day of ComFish will feature forums on preserving working waterfronts, and commercial fishing insurance concerns and the Affordable Care Act, plus discussions on how limnology, the study of inland water systems, aims to boost sockeye salmon runs, and high resolution benthic imaging. Also on Friday’s schedule is an update on the Pebble mine issue and current actions of the Environmental Protection Agency.

New on Saturday, April 19, will be a processor’s filleting competition, organized by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, featuring Kodiak seafood pros, an overview of Alaska’s permitting system and fish habitat protections by Bob Shavelson of Cook InletKeeper, and a photo exhibit on images of the Exon Valdez oil spill on Kodiak Island, hosted by the Kodiak Maritime Museum.

The complete Comfish agenda is online at

NPFMC Adopts Motion on Bering Sea Canyons

Federal fishery managers have taken a small step forward on the issue of whether to amend groundfish and crab fishery management plans to protect significant concentrations of deep-sea corals in Pribilof Canyon in the Bering Sea.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council this past week adopted a purpose and need statement which is needed to determine whether and how the council should recommend an amendment to those Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands FMPs to protect the deep-sea corals and the adjacent slope from fishing impacts under the appropriate authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.

The motion approved by council members at their spring meeting in Anchorage said their action may identify a discrete area or areas of significant abundance of deep sea corals in, and directly adjacent to, the Pribilof canyon, assess the potential for fishing impacts on the identified area or areas of significant coral abundance, evaluate the historical and current patterns of fishing effort and more in the Pribilof Canyon. The canyon is a long submarine canyon rising from the Bering Abyssal Plain on the floor of the Bering Sea to the southeast of the Pribilof Islands in Alaska.

Last June the council passed a motion to identify and validate areas of coral concentrations for possible management measures for the conservation and management of deep-sea corals in Pribilof and Zhemchug canyons. Zhemchug, also a submarine, is located in the middle of the Bering Sea.

In testimony submitted for the NPFMC meeting, environmental organizations, including Oceana, urged the council to adopt clear objectives and move forward to protect the sensitive habitat, which is critical to many species of ocean wildlife.

Oceana asked the council and National Marine Fisheries service to provide scientific control areas, fully protect representative habitats, protect hotspot, sensitive and important areas, and avoid impacts to essential fish habitat, including corals, sponges and emergent epifauna.

Lengthy public comment on this issue from Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace are posted online, along with other meeting details, at

Researchers Call For Changes in Processing, Handling to Reduce Injuries

A new research report from Oregon State University says many injuries aboard freezer-trawlers and freezer-longliner vessels could be prevented by changes in the processing and handling of fish.

“We’ve drilled down to such a detailed level in the injury data that we can actually address specific hazards and develop prevention strategies,” said Devin Lucas, of the Alaska Pacific office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The study is the first scientific assessment of the risk of fishing on freezer-trawlers and freezer-longline vessels, both of which process fish onboard. The vessels had reputations for being among the most dangerous in commercial fishing, in part because of a few incidents that resulted in multiple fatalities. Lucas said an analysis of 12 years of injury data showed that the rate of injury on freezer-trawlers was actually about the same as the national average for commercial fishing, while the rate aboard freezer-longliners was about half the national average.

Most injuries in the freezer-trawler fleet occurred in the factories and freezer holds, while the most common injuries in the freezer-longliner fleet occurred on deck while working the fishing gear, Lucas said. Injuries from processing and handling fish were also common on the longliners, the research showed.

Methods used in the research can now be applied to other commercial fishing industries to identify safety issues and pinpoint areas for prevention, said study co-author Laurel Kincl, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and safety at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Kincl said researchers are hoping to build from this research and explore other fishing related injuries and prevention strategies. The Dungeness crab industry is one area that may be explored and another is land-based fish processing, she said.

Additional authors of the study included Jennifer Lincoln of NIOSH, and Viktor E. Bovbjerg and Adam J. Branscum, associate professors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Their research findings, supported by NIOSH and OSU, were published recently in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

AFDF Announces New Mariculture Initiative

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, a private non-profit foundation dedicated to creating new opportunities in Alaska’s commercial fisheries, has announced a new initiative to expedite mariculture development in Alaska.

This is a 30-year plan, said Julie Decker, who took the helm as executive director of AFDF in January. Her hope, she said in an interview on April 15, is to target partners ranging from state and federal agencies to the Alaska Shellfish Growers’ Association, seafood processors, fishing industry groups and local communities.

According to AFDF, the economic effect of mariculture, including wild fishery enhancement, shellfish farming, and restoration, could double the current value of the Alaska seafood industry over the next three decades.

The ex-vessel value of all fisheries in Alaska in 2012 was about $2 billion, including millions of dollars in value from salmon hatcheries, according to AFDF’s initiative.

As part of the initiative, AFDF plans to complete a strategic planning process inclusive of all stakeholders and agencies, including coastal communities, industry, state and federal entities and conservation groups, and develop partnerships necessary to implement the plan, Decker said.

AFDF has applied for a federal Saltonstall-Kennedy grant, for a little over $200,000, and has been recommended for funding, which would begin in July, Decker said. The Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program provides financial assistance for research and development projects to benefit the U.S. fishing industry. Those funds would be used for the coordination and strategic planning process, to begin to find areas for aquatic farm sites, she said.

Challenges to development of mariculture in Alaska, as identified in the AFDF initiative, include everything from environmental issues, including ocean acidification, to extremely remote sites, which increase costs and logistics, plus a workforce that will require recruitment, training and development.

Part of this initiative is to broaden the discussion and pull in the commercial fisheries, Decker said. Farming, enhancement and restoration are three categories of mariculture and they overlap, she said.