Blue North Fisheries, a Seattle based natural resource company engaged in the cod fisheries, has announced a new humane harvest initiative, aimed at establishing ethical standards for fish harvesting.
“The Humane Harvest Initiative is based on the recognition that wild fish are sentient beings that deserve to be harvested humanely,” says Kenny Down, president and chief executive officer of Blue North, who announced the new initiative on March 16 at Seafood Expo in Boston.
“This initiative represents a major step forward for Blue North, furthering our goal to provide the purest, healthiest whole food to our customers while at the same time being conscientious about how we treat marine life.”
The initiative deepens Blue North’s commitment to sustainability through several key components informed by strong scientific evidence, a commitment to more humane practices and coordination with the environmental community, the company said in a statement.
One way the humane harvest initiative will work to establish more ethical practices is through development of a device that reduces stress and pain in wild fish during harvest. Numerous studies have also shown that stress reduction prior to processing produces higher quality and healthier products for consumers.
Blue North currently uses a pneumatic stunning machine on one of its vessels, which uses air pressure to render the fish’s central nervous system asleep before processing. The company is now developing a next generation device that relies on electrodes for added efficiency.
“Fish experience the greatest amount of stress during harvesting and the quality of the fillets is adversely affected,” said Mahmoudreza Ovissipour, a research associate and food scientist at Washington State University, who serves as a founding board member for the company’s Humane Harvest Initiative. “In addition, stress conditions during harvesting and post-harvest processes can induce reactions that decrease the nutritional value and taste quality of the fish fillet.”
The new process is to be implemented on all five of Blue North’s vessels, including its newest vessel, which is scheduled to begin operations in late 2015.
The company’s primary product, wild caught Alaska cod, was the first commercial cod fishery to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and designated as a “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Blue North is a producer partner of FishWise, a supplier member of FishChoice, and a business collaborator with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.