Iquique U.S. is an American company that catches, processes and freezes fish in the waters off of the coast of Alaska to meet the dietary and cultural needs of people throughout the world. Their primary seafood products are produced on board their fleet of catcher-processor vessels, and then further processed in plants in the United States, China, Japan, Korea and Europe. Iquique managed vessels have developed a strong presence in the marketplace and on the fishing grounds. The focus of the company and her vessels continues to be on Alaska flatfish in the Bering Sea. Iquique U.S. vessels produce between 40,000- 45,000 metric tons per year (selling weight).
Iquique U.S., like all other commercial fishing companies, must have observers from the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) on board to review each catch prior to processing. NMFS is the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s living marine resources and their habitat. It oversee the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 miles offshore). This agency also predicts the status of fish stocks, ensures compliance with fisheries regulations, and works to reduce wasteful fishing practices.
The NMFS observer on board any commercial vessel is supposed to be notified 20 minutes before a catch is hauled on board and goes to the factory where fish are counted prior to processing. Time is money wen fishing in the harsh weather in the Bering Sea, and catches processed without the observer risk heavy penalties, so any delays processing fish and getting nets back in the water directly impact profits. Catches can come in at any time of day or night, so at times, locating the observer within the regulation 20-minute time frame was difficult. An observer could be anywhere on the more than 145-foot ship, asleep in quarters, or in a bathroom.
The only tie to civilization in these remote waters is a satellite connection expensive to engage, so cellphone or computer systems don’t work. And system components would be doused with icy water or dropped on deck in the fish factory, so durability is critical. Iquique U.S. needed a reliable notification system, but finding one that would consistently perform in an unforgiving environment famous for stormy skies, giant swells, and unpredictable blasts of icy, sea-soaked air proved to be a challenge.
Iquique U.S. Vessel Operation Manager, David Wilson, remembered those nifty restaurant pagers he saw everywhere and started his online search there. He purchased LRS Aqua Pager, a nearly indestructible guest paging system typically used in resorts, casinos or healthcare facilities. This waterproof, antimicrobial wireless paging system allowed crew members to page observers when a catch was coming on board, and results were immediate. “Aqua Pager transformed the communication process. Observers are immediately notified and are waiting when the catch is brought into the fish factory for processing on board,” said Wilson. “Everybody likes Aqua Pager. We only have 30 or so crew members, and with Aqua Pager, we don’t have to send one of them out just to find an observer. Plus, the observers get a level of privacy they didn’t have before. Nobody is knocking on their door at 2 a.m. or waiting outside the bathroom. It also takes the guesswork out of when the observer was paged.”
On average, each fishing trip is 7–14 days long, depending on catch, and the season is from January to October. With set costs like fuel, processing fish faster and avoiding penalties help commercial fishing companies make more money. Implementing Aqua Pager ensured observers were properly notified and catches were processed quickly. Iquique U.S. is pleased to report that they’ve haven’t been fined for not meeting regulations, and using Aqua Pager is one of the reasons they have such a great track record. The system offered side benefits, too. “Its vibrates and flashes, so it’s convenient,” said Wilson. “Observers usually carry the pager in their high rubber boots because the pagers don’t smell, leaving their hands free. That’s handy when you’re walking on an icy deck. And since the pagers are also waterproof, they can get soaked or be washed, and we don’t worry about them not working.”
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