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

NMFS has awarded 16 grants totaling more than $2.5 million as part of its Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.

The program supports the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch and aims to to find creative approaches and strategies for reducing bycatch, seabird interactions, and post-release mortality in federally managed fisheries.


Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.

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