“Doing the Right Thing Tastes Better.”

It’s a catchy slogan and an especially apt one for the F/V Blue North, a vessel operating in the Bering Sea known for catching Alaskan cod. It’s part of the fleet owned by Bristol Wave Seafoods, which is Vital Choice’s first-ever “Featured Catch.”

The longline-caught Alaskan cod from Bristol Wave Seafoods and its F/V Blue North vessel is a flakier, meatier, brighter white fish than most of the commercially available cod on the market, hence why Vital Choice purchases from them. It’s easy to prepare as the center of a healthy meal, requiring minimal prep and cooking time to achieve a delicious main course. It can also improve your fish and chips game or be paired with a complimentary sauce for a memorable home-cooked meal.

MORE: 7 Best Cod Recipes

Fisherman on Bristol Waves Seafood boat catching a large Alaskan cod.

The boat that rocks

What sets F/V Blue North apart from other boats is the vessel’s innovative techniques for catching and storing fish, according to Bristol Wave Seafood’s Beth Hickam, who is part of the sales and logistics department. Unlike fisheries that trawl with a large net, F/V Blue North uses longlines baited with squid and other baitfish that specifically target cod in the pristine Bering Sea.

The cod enter the F/V Blue North vessel and are funneled into a first-of-its-kind storage area on a fishing boat called the “moon pool.” Commonly found on research vessels, a moon pool, also known as a wet porch, is a large hole in the hull of a ship that allows crew to easily and safely lower and raise equipment into the water.

The fish are then “frozen at sea,” Hickam explains, meaning that rather than transport live fish back to shore for processing, they’re prepared on board, which also is unique in featuring a fillet line — the fish are filleted and frozen, then shipped for distribution to such places like Vital Choice’s warehouses, once the vessel returns to shore.

These factors mean that Alaskan cod from Bristol Wave is a “once-frozen product,” as Hickam puts it. Most other Alaskan seafood is frozen, then defrosted and prepared onshore, before being frozen again and shipped. On the F/V Blue North, says, Hickam, the fish are pulled out of the water and frozen right away to guarantee freshness of the highest quality. Adding, “It goes out to the customer immediately.”

Plate of Alaskan cod with parmesan and zucchini noodles.
Once you receive your cod, you can feature it at dinner with Parmesan and zucchini noodles.

Well, maybe not immediately, but surprisingly fast!

Here’s how the process works aboard the F/V Blue North: Baited hooks are placed in the body of water for up to six hours, then hauled into the moon pool one fish at a time. The fish, which individually can range from about 3 to 13 pounds, are quickly flash frozen. Other fisheries that use nets to trawl can leave the fish and bycatch in the water much longer; slaughtering the fish can be a lengthy process — and a stressful one for the cod.

F/V Blue North, a 191-foot vessel that can house 26 crew members, typically fills up with 1,150 metric tons of fish before heading back to shore to ship out the catch. During the “A” season, which runs from January through early June, the trips typically last 3 weeks for the F/V Blue North. From mid-June through December, or “B” season, the F/V Blue North can be at sea for a month or slightly longer. Bristol Wave Seafoods follows the government-regulated quota to ensure sustainability of the species and is the largest quota holder in the northern Pacific.

Over the moon

The moon pool is not only designed to ease the journey of the fish, but to keep the fishing crew safe. The Bering Sea is a “notoriously dangerous place to fish,” Hickam says. She explains that other boats require the crew to pull in the lines or nets from the deck, exposing them to thrashing waves and potentially severe weather. The F/V Blue North, which debuted in 2016, decreases risk with its moon pool.

In other words, the treatment of the fish and the crew is intended to be as safe as possible. “We’re unique in that,” Hickam says. “Not just for the fish but for the people fishing for them.”

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Photos courtesy of Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute


Richard Martin is a writer, editor, and strategist who specializes in food, drink, and travel. He is the co-founder and editor of Appetito, the new online publication about Italian food and drink, and the co-author of the cookbook series Preserved, from publisher Hardie Grant NA.

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