Golden redfish stock never been so strong
HB Grandi’s freezer trawler Helga María AK is due to dock in Reykjavík tomorrow after a short trip. The 7000 cartons on board will be landed and a new Hampidjan Gloria pelagic trawl will be taken on board for the redfish season that is about to start. According to skipper Eiríkur Ragnarsson, there is no great pressure as the redfish quotas have been cut significantly since last year.
‘We have been on home grounds for this last eleven-day trip and have been all over. We started east off Hvalbak to see if we could find some saithe but it wasn’t easy to find clean saithe anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you dip the trawl. There’s cod everywhere on the shallow grounds and on every bank. There are skippers hauling after a five minute tow so they don’t find themselves in trouble,’ Eiríkur Ragnarsson said, commenting it’s not just the cod stock that is strong now.
‘I’ve been fishing here since 1975 and I don’t remember ever seeing the golden redfish (Sebastes marinus) stock in a better state than it is now. It’s also dispersed over an unbelievably wide area and most of the redfish isn’t caught on the traditional grounds. A few years ago it would have been remarkable if anyone had a decent catch of redfish on the Hali grounds, but now there are 25 tonne hauls there. It seems that there are year classes that had been written off that are showing up in force and we saw the first signs of this last year,’ he said.
Guests from Japan
Eiríkur Ragnarsson said that there are two extra crew members on board, a pair of Japanese fishermen, a skipper and a deck boss, who have been observing how Helga María’s crew handle their gear.
‘It’s great having them on board and they’re going to finish the trip in the deep water with us. Navis is designing a fishing vessel for the company they work for that will be built in Japan. It’ll be a similar vessel to Helga María, but with an extra 1000hp, built at a cost that’s equivalent to 4.5 to 5 billion Isl Kr. So the Japanese owners are very interested to see how we work and to see what kind of equipment we work with. The factory trawler these two men used to work on vanished in the tsunami last year and I understand that there was massive damage to their fishing fleet when it happened, and that now there is a great deal of much-needed newbuilding going on,’ Eiríkur Ragnarsson said, adding that there is plenty that has taken their Japanese guests by surprise during the trip.
‘We catch more volume than they do. The trawler that disappeared had an annual catch of around 3000 tonnes. It fished with a crew of 30, and in Japan they don’t work shifts like we do here. If they’re fishing, the whole crew of 30 is up. It was a surprise to me when the skipper said that they only tow when he’s in the wheelhouse. Here we take turns and fish round the clock,’ Eiríkur Ragnarsson said.
The Gloria name
Eiríkur Ragnarsson revealed that the Gloria name that Hampidjan’s pelagic trawls carry was also born on board Helga María in 1991. [translator’s note: A Gloría is a colloquial Icelandic term for a mistake on a grand scale].
‘At that time the ship was called Haraldur Kristjánsson HF. Back then I was mate and Páll Eyjólfsson was skipper. Gudmundur Gunnarsson from Hampidjan had designed a new, large pelagic trawl and we were trying it out. When Páll saw the gear and the designs, he said to Gudmundur; “that’s a Gloria if ever I saw one. Do you really think we’ll catch anything in that?” Gudmundur clearly remembered the remark and the name stuck with the trawl.’