National Fisherman

Odlin's big bet

A Portland, Maine, fisherman will freeze herring and mackerel aboard a $24 million, 346-foot vessel

By Jerry Fraser

It was 66 degrees, unseasonably warm for January in Maine, the day the American Freedom eased away the Portland Ocean Terminal, southbound, more or less, for the waters below Long Island, N.Y.
But for New England fishermen, the weather was hardly the story.

At 346 feet long, American Freedom is bigger than some Maine harbors. And although she won't actually catch fish — legally, I'm not sure you can dangle a single hook over the side — she is certainly a fish boat. What else do you call a vessel that can pump live herring and mackerel out of the ocean and deliver top quality frozen food in neat little packages, 2,000 tons at a time?

That's a very big fish boat, indeed.

Under the name American Pelagic Seafood, longtime Portland fisherman Jim Odlin and his fellow investors have pumped 24 million — dollars, not herring — into American Freedom. Odlin, 52, refers to the boat as a freezer ship or mothership.

The latter description works well, because American Freedom will work with smaller (relatively speaking) pelagic trawlers that will catch fish but not take them aboard, instead passing brailers full of fish over to the mothership.

"This is an opportunity for a lot of vessels to participate in a fishery that has a healthy resource," he says.

For this first trip, which Odlin has planned as a two-week shakedown cruise, a couple of those trawlers will likely be owned by Odlin's other company, Atlantic Trawlers Co.

Inside the Industry

It’s no secret that fraud is a problem in the seafood industry. Oceana repeatedly touts a mislabeling epidemic. While their method has been criticized, the perception of rampant fraud  has been established.

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The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that Owen Nichols, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Fisheries Research Program, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

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