VESSEL REFIT | Arctic Pearl – Seismic survey vessel converted for seabed scallop harvesting

VESSEL REFIT | Arctic Pearl – Seismic survey vessel converted for seabed scallop harvesting

Photo: Ava Ocean/Per Eide

Norwegian seafood company Ava Ocean will soon deploy a refurbished vessel to harvest scallops from the bottom of the Barents Sea.

Arctic Pearl was originally built in 2013 to conduct seismic surveys in support of the offshore energy sector. The vessel underwent conversion at the facilities of Fiskerstrand Verft just outside Alesund and is now equipped for harvesting cockle deposits in Norwegian waters.

The 84.45- by 17-metre, 3,750DWT vessel formerly known as Island Duke and Ocean Duke is now fitted with a selective water pump system that can gently harvest cockles from the seabed while ensuring that no mechanical parts come into direct contact with the organisms. The shells are then drawn into a harvesting basket that floats over the seabed where bycatch and smaller shells are sorted out before the basket is lifted to the surface of the water.

This innovative technology was developed by Ava Ocean with the cooperation of Norwegian private research organisation SINTEF. The harvesting system includes Scantrol monitoring equipment and Deep-Vision underwater cameras that will capture still images and video to assist SINTEF in its research.

The seismic survey vessel Island Duke prior to undergoing conversion into the scallop harvester Arctic Pearl (Photo: GILLET)

Because the system is unlike anything in use today in scallop harvesting, the Norwegian government has granted Ava Ocean a five-year testing quota to develop the technology on Arctic Pearl even further in addition to harvesting up to 15,000 tonnes of cockles each year. The company hopes to raise awareness of this new type of harvesting technology, particularly how it will not harm surrounding marine ecosystems.

SINTEF acknowledges that there are few viable alternatives to bottom scraping, which continues to be the most widespread means of fishing for bottom-dwelling organisms. Bottom scraping is a fishing method that is highly destructive and therefore prohibited in Norway and several other countries.

While Arctic Pearl is engaged in scallop harvesting, it will also be utilised for continuing research on the impact of such harvesting activities on the marine environment. In this endeavour, Ava Ocean will collaborate with Norway’s Institute of Marine Research (IMR).

Arctic Pearl’s initial deployment following conversion will also mark the first time in over 30 years that cockle deposits will be gathered from the bottom of the Barents Sea just off Norway. The decades-long ban on harvesting had been enforced due to the use of potentially damaging fishing gear. However, thanks to Arctic Pearl’s patented harvesting system, gathering of scallops can be done with significantly fewer adverse effects than in previous years.

Photo: Ava Ocean

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Arctic Pearl
Type of vessel: Scallop harvesting vessel
Flag: Norway
Owner: Ava Ocean, Norway
Builder: Fiskerstrand Verft, Norway
Length overall: 84.45 metres
Beam: 17 metres
Deadweight tonnage: 3,750
Cameras: Deep-Vision
Other electronics: Scantrol monitoring equipment
Fishing equipment: Ava Ocean; SINTEF
Operational area: Barents Sea, Norway

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