Life on the tuna ships of Mazatlan

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35 years ago, two fishing boats embarked on their first capture trip from Mazatlan, which was the origin of one of the largest companies in Latin America, Pesca Azteca

Mazatlan, Sinaloa.- In 1984 two recently acquired fishing vessels, Azteca 1 and Azteca 2, would embark on their first tuna catch trip from the port of Mazatlan ; no one of that crew suspected that this crossing would be the ‘spearhead’ of what, over time and forging seamen, would become a large fishing company that would consolidate itself as one of the largest and most successful in America Latin, Pesca Azteca.

The crew of a tuna boat is composed of 25 workers, all with a very specific function to fulfill, the activity on the boat begins with the sunrise and ends when the sun goes down, so the crew meets in the dining room to have breakfast very early, when the sky is still dark; when the king star begins to peek over the horizon, and each crew member must be in his working position

Joaquín Lazarini, Captain of the Port and Head of Maritime Safety in Pesca Azteca

The captain shares that the average trip of each boat that goes fishing is 60 days, the storage capacity of the boat is one thousand tons; Another characteristic of these fishing boats is that they do not touch land during the journey, nor do they reach any island, they also always remain very far from the coast, to the extent that at some point in the trip they are closer to Hawaii than Mazatlan.

The tuna boat has a length of 69 meters, the beam (width) measures 13 meters and a draft (part that goes underwater) of 22-23 feet (about seven meters); in terms of mobility, the tuna vessel can develop a speed of 16-17 knots (31.4 kilometers/hour), but in terms of fuel economy, it is normally operated at a speed of 12-13 knots (24 km/hour) .

Captain Lazarini tells us that currently, the tuna boats have cutting-edge technology, this instrumentation is located on the bridge of command of the boat, either for communication, to locate the geographical position of the ship, or to scrutinize the seabed. Sonar, for example, is a device that allows them to locate a school on the seabed, when it cannot be located with the naked eye; the video plotter, is an instrument that allows them to know the displacement of the helicopter when it goes in search of tuna; the air radar, popularly known as ‘birdhouse radar’, whose function is to detect the presence of seabird flocks, as it is a clear sign of the presence of a school in the area; an electronic chart and magnetic compass are available for navigation, which replace the compasses that used the ships for many years; the videosonda helps them know the depth of the sea, where they are.

As for communication, the ship has several radio communication devices, whether for short, medium and long distance, depending on the needs; It should be noted that some communication or location devices work by satellite.

The bow of a tuna boat, deck appearance. Photo: Rolando Salazar

FISHING

The helicopter plays a very important role in tuna fishing, says the captain, because they locate the shoal and remain in constant vigilance, also through observation they determine what type of tuna it is, in the case of Aztec Fishing, Yellowfin tuna works, this tuna shows a greenish color when it shines through seawater, so the pilot and his assistant identify it. The crew can see the mass of fish by sonar, but cannot be identified by that means.

Some tuna specimens can exceed 60 kilos in weight. 

The pilot and the helper in the helicopter are the ‘eyes in the sky’ of the boat, and from that privileged position they guide the ship where to move to start the capture process; the ship starts to start the net, which reaches about 800 meters in length, to make the circle circular around the tuna shoal, once the circle is closed, the net is also closed at the bottom, then The net is collected to make the circle smaller, the tuna can no longer escape and will soon be lifted to freeze it and store it in the ship’s containers, the latter operation requires hydraulic machines, pulleys, hooks, ropes, as well as the skill and strength of workers on deck.

Fishing vessel Franz, member of the Pesca Azteca fleet. 

IN BAD TIMES

Regarding the weather, which is a very important issue for any vessel that is on the high seas, says Captain Lazarini, the company sends two weather reports a day to the ships that are on the voyage, these reports are issued directly from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that is, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States; In addition, each vessel has a program called CatSat, where you can visualize the formation and route of any weather phenomenon in the ocean, and thus be able to take precautions.

In case of the presence of a cyclonic event in the ocean, according to the location and movement of the meteorological phenomenon, the ship can go to seek refuge to the nearest coast, or sail away from the area of ​​influence of bad weather.

SUSTAINABLE AND RESPONSIBLE FISHING

“We are very aware and constantly monitoring satellite vessels, so that the regulations are respected and do not incur in invading Natural Protected Areas, – says Francisco Lizárraga, in charge of the Department of Oceanography in Pesca Azteca-, when one of our boats is approaching a forbidden zone, we issue an alert so that they will not enter that area, it is something very important for us, not to incur any lack of this type ”.

The stern of a tuna boat, where maneuvers are made to raise the catch. 

“We are very aware and constantly monitoring satellite vessels, so that the regulations are respected and do not incur in invading Natural Protected Areas, – says Francisco Lizárraga, in charge of the Department of Oceanography in Pesca Azteca-, when one of our boats is approaching a forbidden zone, we issue an alert so that they will not enter that area, it is something very important for us, not to incur any lack of this type ”.

FACTS

  • 35 years old in 2019 Pesca Azteca.
  • 1,200 tons per trip produces on average each ship.
  • 85,000 tons, the annual production in Pesca Azteca.
  • 12% of fisheries in the world are MSC certified.
  • 21 tuna boats make up the Aztec Fishing fleet.
  • 60 kilos can weigh a tuna.

The stern of a tuna boat, where maneuvers are made to raise the catch.

Source: el sol de mazatlan

The Mazatlan Post