Sustainable Pacific Cod

Sustainable Pacific cod: Following a new school of thought with line-caught Pacific cod

written by Corinne Whiting

In the Northwest, a pair of industrious, forward-thinking brothers continue to make waves in the fishing industry—in all the best ways. Originally from upstate New York, the duo felt the pull of Alaska in the ’70s, when they first dove deep into the world of fishing. They haven’t stopped since. In 2015, they launched the Humane Harvest Initiative, which “seeks to increase the recognition of fish as deserving of the same treatment standards that are already in place for livestock.” Then, in 2016, they put one of the most efficient, safe and sustainable hook-and-line fleets onto the clean waters of the North Pacific. Highlights of this revolutionary craft include modern crew accommodations and amenities, low greenhouse-gas emissions (fuel efficiencies and heat recovery) and processing efficiencies designed to fully utilize resources.


“Although the vessel is the most modern long liner in the world, we still catch the cod fish the same way they did 150 years ago—on a hook, one at a time,” founder and vice-president Pat Burns explained. “ That’s why this fishery is so sustainable.” Consumers can now enjoy what the Burns describe as “the highest-quality, frozen-at-sea products around.” Thanks to advanced technology, the fishermen use humane practices that “eliminate stress hormones to ensure less pain and fear for the fish at the time of harvest.” The result? According to a blind study conducted by the School of Food Science at Washington State University, a higher-quality, flakier fish that retains more health benefits than those exposed to traditional harvesting methods. Blue North’s Humane Harvest lets, which are processed within three hours of coming out of the water, are available at Town and Country and Central markets in the Puget Sound area, as well as several Seattle restaurants, like Pike Place Market’s Etta’s and Dahlia Lounge.

“For those who are concerned about the ethical treatment of fish, the safety of fishermen and the health of our oceans, Humane Harvest is the gold standard for wild, line-caught Pacific cod,” founder and chairman Michael Burns said. The brothers agree that in order to make wise choices, consumers need to know where their food comes from and how it was raised, gathered or processed. “Get to know your fishermen, ask questions, and demand a high standard for yourself and family,” Mike Burns said. Pat Burns added, “Our job is not done yet. I’m concerned with how America eats, and I want to put every pound of cod fish that we catch onto a plate in the U.S. for all of us to enjoy this healthy, sustainably caught, humanely harvested, wild protein source.” “ The Bering Sea fisheries are some of the best managed fisheries in the world,” he said. “We’ve constructed the Blue North with an eye to future. We are in it for the long haul. … “The future of the cod fishery is very bright.”

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