National Geographic : 1995 Nov
WORLD'S LARGEST NET Big enough to swallow the Statue of Liberty, a giant mid water trawl net gapes more than 400 feet at the mouth. Curved "doors" force the .. -mouth of the net open. Sonar measures the exact spread. Harvesters of the High Seas More than a million fishing vessels now sift the world's oceans for seafood-twice as many as in 1970. Yet the global fleet, subsi dized for decades by national governments, is poised for a major downsizing. "Many of the small mom-and-pop operations are going to be left behind," says an expert with the U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service. "The trend is going toward fewer, bigger, more efficient boats." The Alaska Ocean (above) could be a flagship for this new era of industrial fishing. Based in Anacortes, Washington, the ship can process more than 600 metric tons of pollock a day into surimi, the protein paste used in imita tion seafood products. At 376 feet she is one of the largest factory trawlers in the world. Once brought aboard (1), the catch is spilled into a fish bin (2) while the half-mile-long net is spooled onto a reel (3). The fish are weighed (4) and then gutted and cleaned (5). Nothing is wasted; offal is processed into fish meal (6) and stored (7). Fish fillets are washed, bleached, and treated with additives (8) before being squeezed into surimi paste (9). Blocks of surimi are then quick-frozen (10) before being boxed and stored in the refrigerated hold (11). To boost morale among 125 crew members, living decks (12) are separated from work decks. Amenities include a brass-trimmed cafeteria, a gymnasium, bathrooms with Japanese soaking tubs, and televisions in most cabins.