Blue Harvest Fisheries will temporarily suspend its processing operation in New Bedford, Mass., laying off 64 as it focuses on modernizing its New England groundfish fleet, the company says.

“Blue Harvest Fisheries is working with the MassHire Greater New Bedford Workforce Board and the MassHire Greater New Bedford Career Center in the deployment of the Commonwealth’s rapid response team, to provide career center services to assist affected employees,” according to a prepared statement released Friday.

“We believe that this change will provide a long-term benefit to the fishery, as it will allow us to focus on expanding the quality and capacity of our fleet,” the company said. “We look forward, in the not-too-distant future, to the resumption of processing operations that will complement the most modern fleet in New England waters.”

Those revised plans now include building two new vessels, similar to the Nobska, a state of the art 90’ dragger built as the Francis Dawn and renamed after Blue Harvest acquired the boat this winter. Designed by Farrell & Norton Naval Architects and delivered by Fairhaven Shipyard in 2019,  the Nobska will fish the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, delivering to New Bedford and Gloucester, Mass., the company said in February.

Blue Harvest arrived on the scene in 2018 with its plan to build a steady groundfish operation in the port, and in 2020 purchased 12 vessels and 27 fishing permits from the Carlos Rafael family. Rafael’s conviction on federal tax charges and loss of his fishing permits forced the sale, and the transaction was seen as a major win for keeping local fishing jobs.

“We remain committed to and firm in our belief that great opportunity lies off our New England coast, particularly in the haddock, redfish and Atlantic pollock fisheries, where Blue Harvest Fisheries holds most of its quota. Our intent remains to increase our utilization of these well-managed fisheries with healthy biomass, but not currently achieving maximum sustainable yield,” the company said. “To do so, we are focused both on investing in a modern groundfish fleet and developing the next generation of fishermen to take that fleet to sea.”

After operating the legacy vessels for two years and spending on investments and repairs, “it has become clear that a more modern fleet is necessary as we look to the future,” the company said.  “Blue Harvest will continue to fish these groundfish permits and maintain our existing active vessels, but we will be pivoting our focus to the construction and acquisition of the modern, up-to-date fishing vessels we need to operate in the contemporary, competitive seafood harvesting and production marketplace.”

Blue Harvest says it will aim for the new boats to be designed to “be more efficient and ecologically friendly, with a lower carbon footprint."

"They will employ the latest technology to better target the plentiful species that we seek, avoiding species that are under duress. They will provide safer working conditions, and more comfortable living conditions for captains and crewmembers.”



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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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