Chilling Your Catch
The Bristol Bay salmon fishery has experienced a remarkable transformation toward improved quality and value in recent years, going from just 24% of the drift boat catch being chilled in 2008 to almost 60% chilled in 2012. With quality bonuses at all-time highs, fish hold insulation and RSW services increasing, and ice availability on the rise, the incentive and opportunity for fishermen to chill their catch is greater today than ever. This trend is unstoppable.
The Economic Case For Chilling
Progress toward a higher quality product not only benefits fishermen in the short term through improved fish prices, it also refines the Bristol Bay brand and helps ensure the future economic success of all industry participants. Our fishery is clearly moving in the right direction, but progress can always be made. It is up to each individual fisherman to determine if their operation maximizes the value of their catch by delivering the highest quality product possible, and if it does not, to make necessary improvements so this economic potential can be realized.
The principle motivation for fishermen to chill their fish is a matter of simple economics; chilled fish command a higher price.
The principle motivation for fishermen to chill their fish is a matter of simple economics; chilled fish command a higher price and a bigger settlement check at the end of the season. If no financial investment or extra effort was required, every fisherman would chill their catch and benefit from quality bonuses, but obviously that is not the case. An investment must be made, fish holds must be insulated, RSW installed or ice utilized throughout the season. These commitments of money and in-season effort are the greatest barriers preventing dry boat fishermen from chilling their catch, and often the perception exists that costs associated with making the change to chilling outweigh potential benefits. Although many fishermen still cling to this perception and resist making necessary investments to chill, the economic reality for most fishing operations is quite different.
As with any business decision, there are many factors to consider before investing in a chilling solution for your boat. For an investment to make sense, the financial commitment must provide an attractive estimated return over a timeframe that is practical, given your fishing operation’s abilities and goals. Factors such as the recurring costs of maintenance, fuel, ice and the additional labor and time required to properly chill your catch must also be taken into consideration, as does any effect the investment will have on the value of your boat. Because each fisherman’s circumstances are unique, it is important to evaluate all these factors when determining which chilling investment is best for you.
So what is the best fish chilling system for my boat?
Not long ago the only method available for Bristol Bay fishermen to chill their catch was through the use of an RSW unit, but starting in 2008 that began to change. Today, ice is available in most fishing districts and many processing companies are distributing ice on tenders, making it even more convenient. Improved availability has made slush ice a viable alternative to RSW. Although RSW is certainly convenient and consistent, the low cost of slush bags or a fish hold insulation job are a practical choice for many, and should be strongly considered as a revenue-enhancing alternative. The decision to make the necessary investment and begin chilling your fish can be daunting, but the reality is that a chilling system upgrade exists to fit everyone’s budget. The first step toward realizing these gains is determining what upgrade best suites your operation.
Before committing to any chilling system upgrade it is important to evaluate your resources, needs and goals.
Your Chilling Options
A wide range of methods and materials are available to insulate the fish holds of Bristol Bay gillnetters; and if done properly, insulation will provide an adequate thermal barrier for use with slush ice or RSW, and last for decades.
- The best single investment you can make in your boat
- Provides a high return on your investment
- Makes slush-icing your catch easy and prepares your boat for RSW
Slush bags are watertight, vinyl coated nylon bags that isolate each individual fish hold so water and ice can be added to chill the fish. They can be made with or without a layer of insulation and cost as little as $200 per bag.
- The low cost solution to chilling your catch
- Provides a high return on investment
- A good way to see how a slush-ice program works for your operation
Refrigerated sea water (RSW) systems chill fish through a mechanical process that pulls heat from the catch into an evaporator, then discharges that heat overboard through a condenser.
- The ultimate chilling upgrade
- Provides consistent results not bound to ice availability
- A hassle-free way to chill your catch that simply makes sense
Chilling Net Income Tool
We have created an interactive form to calculate how a chilling investment will affect your net income, given your specific inputs. Use this financial planning tool to explore various investment options.
The table below demonstrates how a chilling investment will affect your net income, given your specific inputs. Use this financial planning tool to explore various investment options.
Enter your values into the yellow fields below, then press ‘enter’. The calculator tool will automatically update the displayed results.