by William F. Galvin, Chroncle (06/24/98)
Keeping codfish alive in circulating tanks during the warm summer months for the asian market will be the goal of an experiment being based at the Harwich Shellfish Laboratory by the Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association.
HARWICH --- Following the success with tuna, local fishermen hope to establish a new market, providing a better economic return for codfish in Asian markets. But, as with tuna, the secret to that success is freshness. The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman's Association is working with an experiment that will hopefully unlock that secret. The executive director of the fisherman's association, Paul Parker, came before selectmen here Monday evening seeking permission to use a small area in the town's shellfish laboratory on Wychmere Harbor to hold live codfish. Those fish will then be flown to markets on the other side of the globe.
Natural Resources Officer Thomas Leach said he was approached, after the fisherman's association received a grant to experiment with the concept, to see if the town would provide space in the shellfish laboratory to hold these fish. The town uses the facility as a shellfish nursery, growing out juvenile quahogs and transplanting them in the wild, and is constantly pumping the Wychmere Harbor waters through the facility to accelerate feeding of the clams during the summer months. What the fisherman's association is proposing is not much different. They are seeking to place a small tank, four-feet, by four-feet and two-feet deep in the corner of the building and underneath a set of stairs, Parker told selectmen. Selectman Cyd Zeigler wanted to know how many fish would be kept there. Parker responded he did not know the density level for fish in the tank and that would also be an experiment.
The tank, according to Parker, who holds a Masters in Environmental Science from Duke, would serve as a stabilizing area for the fish before they are sent to market. Zeigler pointed out there is a great deal of stress placed on those fish when they are pulled 200 to 300 feet from the depths of the ocean and brought on board. There is a high mortality rate, agreed the association's executive director. Parker left after the meeting to go tuna fishing and was not available for comment after the meeting with selectmen. Leach, however, said local fisherman Fred Bennett was selected to participate in this experiment and a refrigerated unit will be placed on his boat in which to keep the fish until they get to shore. The fish then will be transferred into the tank at the shellfish laboratory and held until they are flown to Asian markets. Like fresh tuna, the fishermen are hoping the codfish will escalate in value in that market.
Leach said this experiment will run only through the summer months. Refrigeration will be required to cool the waters in that tank to those of its natural habitat. The temperature in Wychmere Harbor is about 68 degrees, according to Leach, and the water the codfish are pulled from offshore is only 50 degrees or less. Selectman Peter Hughes pointed out there will be some electricity costs associated with this experiment. Parker assured town officials his association would pick up the difference between the normal electric bill and any increases. The natural resources officer said this program has been experimented with during the winter months when the waters are colder, but, they are seeking a way to keep the fish healthy during the warmer weather. If this works, Leach speculated, someone will be looking for space in an industrial park somewhere to begin marking the concept.
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