The chilling rate for salmon at Bristol Bay jumped from 24 percent 10 years ago to a record 73 percent last year. The rate will will surely be higher this season.

Processors are requiring it and paying nice bonuses of up to 30 cents a pound for the top-quality fish. The fisherman is the first link in the cold chain and RSW, or refrigerated seawater, is their go to system.

“Used to be the gold standard for Bristol Bay was 7.5 ton hydraulic, that’s what everyone wanted. It’s really changed a lot – now we’re seeing a lot of 10 ton, 12 ton.”

Kurt Ness directs operations and co-owns Seattle-based Integrated Marine Systems, IMS. There are 17 different RSW systems out on the Bay today, he says, from three ton electric to 12 ton diesel drive. One ton of refrigeration will chill 12,000 pounds of water and fish 1 degree in one hour.

“Response has been really good. We’re getting units in boats that you’d never thought you’d see a unit in because of the hydraulic demands or the space constraints.”

It’s not one size fits all, Ness says. There’s huge variation in how much fish the Bay boats can pack. IMS has developed a new system for smaller vessels, some dealing with RSW for the first time.

“Boats that don’t have the hydraulic power to power a traditional unit or don’t have the space for a larger diesel drive. So we came up with a three ton and five ton electric that can be run by a single faced generator, about 9kw, so the footprint is much smaller. Smaller foot print, smaller system, smaller tonnage for a smaller boat and it’s designed for boats that pack somewhere in the five to eight thousand pound range.”

Ness says many RSW parts are being upsized to handle the chilling demands from warmer waters.

“We did see that – it was noticeable several years ago and we’ve been moving in that direction. Everything is just getting bigger. We’re seeing it in other markets too where say a 20 ton system would’ve been suitable for a seiner that packs 80,000 pounds; now we’re seeing more emphasis on chilling, the water temps are going up, Let’s upsize that to a 25 horsepower or 28 ton system, something in that range.”

RSW costs range from $15,000 for three ton electric up to $44,000 for 10 ton diesel drive.  

“If you’re just taking a bare bones boat that hasn’t had any RSW before, the cost of the unit if one factor but there are a lot of other costs involved too. There could be flush decking, insulation, the actual installation itself, maybe some hydraulic upgrades. So if you’re taking a unit that costs $20,000 you could easily double that just in terms of installation.”

BBEDC offers financial RSW assists to local residents.

IMS also is for Bristol Bay through March 1.

“It’s probably our biggest market and we wanted to give back and give the fleet an opportunity to purchase a new RSW system or a retrofit, applies to new builds and everything in between.”

Find links to Integrated Marine Systems here –

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