Factory ship

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The German factory ship Kiel NC 105 Kiel (Ship 1973) -Deutsche Fischfang Union- Cuxhaven 2008 by-RaBoe 01.jpg
The German factory ship Kiel NC 105

A factory ship, also known as a fish processing vessel, is a large ocean-going vessel with extensive on-board facilities for processing and freezing caught fish or whales. Modern factory ships are automated and enlarged versions of the earlier whalers and their use for fishing has grown dramatically. Some factory ships are equipped to serve as a mother ship.



Floating fish processor Atlantis docked in Astoria, Oregon Barge.png
Floating fish processor Atlantis docked in Astoria, Oregon

Contemporary factory ships have their origins in the early whalers. These vessels sailed into remote waters and processed the whale oil on board, discarding the carcass. Later whalers converted the entire whale into usable products. The efficiency of these ships and the predation they carried out on whales contributed greatly to the animals' steep decline.

Contemporary factory ships are automated and enlarged versions of these earlier whalers. Their use for fishing has grown dramatically. For a while, Russia, Japan and Korea operated huge fishing fleets centred on factory ships, though in recent times this use has been declining. On the other hand, the use of factory ships by the United States has increased.

Some factory ships can also function as mother ships. The basic idea of a mother ship is that it can carry small fishing boats that return to the mother ship with their catch. But the idea extends to include factory trawlers supporting a fleet of smaller catching vessels that are not carried on board. They serve as the main ship in a fleet operating in waters a great distance from their home ports.


Fish processing ships consist of various types, including freezer trawlers, longline factory vessels, purse seine freezer vessels, stern trawlers and squid jiggers.

Factory stern trawler

The factory trawler Wiesbaden Cuxhaven 2006 Wiesbaden (ship, 1973) by-RaBoe.jpg
The factory trawler Wiesbaden

A factory stern trawler is a large stern trawler which has additional onboard processing facilities and can stay at sea for days or weeks at a time. A stern trawler tows a fishing trawl net and hauls the catch up a stern ramp. These can be either demersal (weighted bottom trawling); pelagic (mid-water trawling); or pair trawling, where two vessels about 500 metres apart together pull one huge net with a mouth circumference of 900 meters.

Freezer trawler

A freezer trawler fully processes the catch on board to customers’ specifications, into frozen-at-sea fillet, block or head and gutted form. Factory freezer trawlers can run to 60 to 70 meters in length and go to sea for six weeks at a time with a crew of over 35 people. They process fish into fillets within hours of being caught. Onboard fishmeal plants process the waste product so everything is utilized.

The world's largest freezing trawler by gross tonnage is the 144-metre-long Annelies Ilena ex Atlantic Dawn. In 2015, the Annelies Ilena was detained by the Irish Navy and the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency for breach of regulations. [1] The owners were subsequently fined 105,000 Euros for illegally fishing in Irish waters. She is able to process 350 tonnes of fish a day, can carry 3,000 tons of fuel, and store 7,000 tons of graded and frozen catch. She uses on board forklift trucks to aid discharging.

Factory bottom longliner

These automated bottom longliners fish using hooks strung on long lines. The hooks are baited automatically and the lines are released very fast. Many thousands of hooks are set each day, the retrieval and setting of these hooks is a continuous 24-hour-a-day operation. These ships go to sea for six weeks at a time. They contain factories for processing fish into fillets, which are frozen in packs, ready for market, within hours of being caught. These vessels sometimes also have fishmeal plants on board.

Purse seiner

The factory tuna purser Albatun Dos operating around the Seychelles Islands Albatun Dod cropped.jpg
The factory tuna purser Albatun Dos operating around the Seychelles Islands

A purse seiner is a fishing vessel which uses a traditional method of catching tuna and other school fish species. A large net is set in a circle around a school of fish while on the surface. The net is then pursed, closing the bottom of the net, then pulling up the net until the fish are caught alongside the vessel. Most of these types of vessels then transfer the fish into a tank filled with brine (extra salty refrigerated water). This freezes large amounts of fish quickly. Trip lengths can vary from 20 to 70 days depending on the fishing. The fish is held in refrigerated brine tanks and unloads either directly to the canneries or is trans-shipped to carrier vessels to freight to the canneries, leaving the purse seine vessel close to the fishing grounds to continue fishing. Purse seiners longer than 70 metres are called super seiners.

External image
Searchtool.svg Squid jig

Factory squid jigger

A factory squid jigger is a specialized ship that uses powerful lights to attract squid and then "jigs" many thousands of hooked lures from hundreds of separate winches. These predominantly Japanese and Korean factory vessels and their crews may fish the oceans continuously for two years, periodically transferring their catch at the fishing grounds to larger refrigerated vessels.

Factory barges

Some barges are floating fish processing factories, which can be towed across navigable waters to receive catches from commercial fishing vessels. The barges often contain living quarters for the factory workers. [2]

Whaler factory

The 8,145-ton MV Nisshin Maru is the mothership of the Japanese whaling fleet and is the world's only remaining whaler factory ship. [3] The ship is owned by Tokyo-based company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd. and is contracted by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research. [4]


Commercial fish processing ships can affect birds, whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks by their broad reach methods of catching fish.

Purse seine ships, with nets up to two kilometres in circumference, can encircle whole shoals of pelagic fish, such as mackerel, herring and tuna.

A major international scientific study released in November 2006 in the journal Science found that about one-third of all fishing stocks worldwide have collapsed (with a collapse being defined as a decline to less than 10% of their maximum observed abundance), and that if current trends continue all fish stocks worldwide will collapse within fifty years. [5]

The FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2004 report estimates that in 2003, of the main fish stocks or groups of resources for which assessment information is available, "approximately one-quarter were overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion (16%, 7% and 1% respectively) and needed rebuilding. [6]

The threat of overfishing is not limited to the target species only. As trawlers resort to deeper and deeper waters to fill their nets, they have begun to threaten delicate deep-sea ecosystems and the fish that inhabit them, [7] such as the coelacanth. [8] In the May 15, 2003 issue of the journal Nature , it is estimated that 10% of large predatory fish remain compared to levels before commercial fishing. [9] Many fisheries experts, however, consider this claim to be exaggerated with respect to tuna populations. [10]

From 1950 (18 million tons) to 1969 (56 million tons) fishfood production grew by about 5% each year; from 1969 onward production has raised 8% annually. [11] It is expected that this demand will continue to rise, and MariCulture Systems estimated in 2002 that, by 2010, seafood production would have to increase by over 15.5 million tonnes to meet the desire of Earth's growing population. This is likely to further aggravate the problem of overfishing, unless aquaculture technology expands to meet the needs of human population.

The world's total wild catch has remained constant for almost 30 years. [12]

Overfishing has depleted some fish populations to the point that large scale commercial fishing, on average around the world, is not economically viable without government assistance. Many states offer subsidies to their fishing fleets, [13] which is unsustainable in the long term. According to Oceana, the global fishing fleet is currently up to 250 percent larger than it needs to be to catch what the oceans can sustainably produce. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fishing Activity of trying to catch fish

Fishing is the activity of trying to catch fish. Fish are often caught in the wild but may also be caught from stocked bodies of water. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping. "Fishing" may include catching aquatic animals other than fish, such as molluscs, cephalopods, crustaceans, and echinoderms. The term is not normally applied to catching farmed fish, or to aquatic mammals, such as whales where the term whaling is more appropriate. In addition to being caught to be eaten, fish are caught as recreational pastimes. Fishing tournaments are held, and caught fish are sometimes kept as preserved or living trophies. When bioblitzes occur, fish are typically caught, identified, and then released.

Longline fishing Commercial fishing technique

Longline fishing, or longlining, is a commercial fishing angling technique that uses a long main line with baited hooks attached at intervals via short branch lines called snoods or gangions. A snood is attached to the main line using a clip or swivel, with the hook at the other end. Longlines are classified mainly by where they are placed in the water column. This can be at the surface or at the bottom. Lines can also be set by means of an anchor, or left to drift. Hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks can hang from a single line. Longliners – fishing vessels rigged for longlining – commonly target swordfish, tuna, halibut, sablefish and many other species.


Bycatch, in the fishing industry, is a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while fishing for specific species or sizes of wildlife. Bycatch is either the wrong species, the wrong sex, or is undersized or juveniles of the target species. The term "bycatch" is also sometimes used for untargeted catch in other forms of animal harvesting or collecting. Non-marine species that are caught but regarded as generally "undesirable" are referred to as "rough fish" and "coarse fish".

Overfishing Removal of a species of fish from water at a rate that the species cannot replenish

Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from a body of water at a rate that the species cannot replenish, resulting in those species becoming underpopulated in that area. Overfishing can occur in water bodies of any sizes, such as ponds, rivers, lakes or oceans, and can result in resource depletion, reduced biological growth rates and low biomass levels. Sustained overfishing can lead to critical depensation, where the fish population is no longer able to sustain itself. Some forms of overfishing, such as the overfishing of sharks, has led to the upset of entire marine ecosystems. Types of overfishing include: Growth overfishing, recruitment overfishing, ecosystem overfishing.

Fishing industry Economic sector concerned with taking, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing or selling fish or fish products

The fishing industry includes any industry or activity concerned with taking, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing or selling fish or fish products. It is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization as including recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing, and the related harvesting, processing, and marketing sectors. The commercial activity is aimed at the delivery of fish and other seafood products for human consumption or as input factors in other industrial processes. Directly or indirectly, the livelihood of over 500 million people in developing countries depends on fisheries and aquaculture.

Fishing trawler Commercial fishing vessel designed to operate fishing trawls

A fishing trawler is a commercial fishing vessel designed to operate fishing trawls. Trawling is a method of fishing that involves actively dragging or pulling a trawl through the water behind one or more trawlers. Trawls are fishing nets that are pulled along the bottom of the sea or in midwater at a specified depth. A trawler may also operate two or more trawl nets simultaneously.

Commercial fishing Catching seafoood for commercial profit

Commercial fishing is the activity of catching fish and other seafood for commercial profit, mostly from wild fisheries. It provides a large quantity of food to many countries around the earth, but those who practice it as an industry must often pursue fish far into the ocean under adverse conditions. Large-scale commercial fishing is also known as industrial fishing.

Seine fishing Method of fishing with a net

Seine fishing is a method of fishing that employs a fishing net, called a seine, that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets can be deployed from the shore as a beach seine, or from a boat.

Krill fishery

The krill fishery is the commercial fishery of krill, small shrimp-like marine animals that live in the oceans world-wide. The present estimate for the biomass of Antarctic krill is 379 million tonnes. The total global harvest of krill from all fisheries amounts to 150–200,000 tonnes annually, mainly Antarctic krill and North Pacific krill.

Fishing vessel Boat or ship used to catch fish on a body of water

A fishing vessel is a boat or ship used to catch fish in the sea, or on a lake or river. Many different kinds of vessels are used in commercial, artisanal and recreational fishing.

Brim hf. is a fishing and fish processing company in Iceland. Brim's headquarters are in Reykjavík where its office and groundfish production are located. The company also runs fish processing plants in two other towns in Iceland, Akranes and Vopnafjörður.

Vessel monitoring system

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) is a general term to describe systems that are used in commercial fishing to allow environmental and fisheries regulatory organizations to track and monitor the activities of fishing vessels. They are a key part of monitoring control and surveillance (MCS) programs at national and international levels. VMS may be used to monitor vessels in the territorial waters of a country or a subdivision of a country, or in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that extend 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) from the coasts of many countries. VMS systems are used to improve the management and sustainability of the marine environment, through ensuring proper fishing practices and the prevention of illegal fishing, and thus protect and enhance the livelihoods of fishermen.

<i>The End of the Line</i> (book) Book by Charles Clover

The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat is a book by journalist Charles Clover about overfishing. It was made into a movie released in 2009 and was re-released with updates in 2017.

This is a glossary of terms used in fisheries, fisheries management and fisheries science.

Fishing in Portugal

Fishing is a major economic activity in Portugal. The country has a long tradition in the sector, and is among the countries in the world with the highest fish consumption per capita. Roman ruins of fish processing facilities were found across the Portuguese coast. Fish has been an important staple for the entire Portuguese population, at least since the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

Fishing industry in South Korea

Until the 1960s, agriculture and fishing were the dominant industries of the economy of South Korea. The fishing industry of South Korea depends on the existing bodies of water that are shared between South Korea, China and Japan. Its coastline lies adjacent to the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, and enables access to marine life such as fish and crustaceans.

Fishing industry in China

China has one-fifth of the world's population and accounts for one-third of the world's reported fish production as well as two-thirds of the world's reported aquaculture production.

Fishing industry in the United States

As with other countries, the 200 nautical miles (370 km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coast of the United States gives its fishing industry special fishing rights. It covers 11.4 million square kilometres, which is the second largest zone in the world, exceeding the land area of the United States.

Fishing industry in Russia

The coastline of the Russian Federation is the fourth longest in the world after the coastlines of Canada, Greenland, and Indonesia. The Russian fishing industry has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 7.6 million km2 including access to twelve seas in three oceans, together with the landlocked Caspian Sea and more than two million rivers.

The Fishing industry in Thailand, in accordance with usage by The World Bank, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other multinational bodies, refers to and encompasses recreational fishing, aquaculture, and wild fisheries both onshore and offshore.


  1. Siggins, Lorna. "Former Atlantic Dawn ship detained in Irish waters". The Irish Times.
  2. US Court of Appeals (2002) Can a fish processing barge qualify as a "vessel in navigation".
  3. Darby, Andrew (18 July 2009). "New rules for safe shipping may save whales". The Sydney Morning Herald .
  4. 21 January 2011 [ permanent dead link ]
  5. BBC (2006) Factory fishing: facts and figures Archived February 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. FAO (2004) The Status of the Fishing Fleet The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.
  7. Urbina, Ian. "Palau vs. Poachers," The New York Times, 2016.
  8. The Guardian (2006) Dinosaur fish pushed to the brink by deep-sea trawlers
  9. Nature (2003) Rapid Worldwide Depletion of Predatory Fish Communities
  10. Nature (2005) Decline of Pacific tuna populations exaggerated Page 434:E1-E2, 28 April 2005.
  11. FAO (2000) World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.
  12. FAO (2012) The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2012 Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Rome. ISBN   978-92-5-107225-7.
  13. Urbina, Ian (July 17, 2020). "How China's Massive Fishing Fleet Is Transforming the World's Oceans". Slate. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  14. Home | Oceana Book Archived 2012-05-12 at the Wayback Machine