Gijs Duijndam lives in the old Dutch fishing village Katwijk. He raised up in a real salty climate. He is member of a fishing family. His father, uncles and older nephews used to be fishermen on small herring drifters, pelagic freezer trawlers and beam trawlers. During that time the whole family was depending on fishing. Grandfather and great-grandfather were also fishermen. They used to fish on sailing smacks and later herring drifters. In those days his grandfather was first mate on the biggest steam trawler (side winder called ‘Vios’) of Ymuiden, the most important fishing port of The Netherlands. Nowadays just two nephews from Gijs are working on pelagic freezer trawlers.
At the age of eight Gijs joined his father during school holidays on a pelagic trawler. Later his father found employment on beam trawlers on which Gijs also made some holiday trips. During those trips he got infected by the fisheries virus. After finishing his primary school he decided to go to the local fishing college where he thrived. For more than twenty years, Gijs has been first mate onboard the pelagic freezer trawler ‘Carolien’ which is owned by trawler company Cornelis Vrolijk BV based in Ymuiden. With a crew of 48 fishermen this freezer trawler is fishing pelagic species such as herring, mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting and smelt. The 125 metres long ‘Carolien’ operates in different fishing grounds, i.e. around the British isles, the northern part of the north east Atlantic and the Gulf of Biscay. “It all depends where the fish is and if quota are available“, says Gijs. The duration of the trips of the freezer trawler ‘Cafrolien’ varies between fifteen days and five weeks. It depends on the distance to the fishing grounds and the catchability of the target species.
The first mate of the freezer trawler ‘Carolien’ is familiar with pelagic trawl net concepts. The ‘Carolien’ is fully equipped for this type of fishing. “Since about three years we are focussed on collecting different data of the species we are catching. We use cameras in the trawl net in order to get an impression of the fish behaviour. We use escape panels in the net. We want to get rid of juvenile fish and species which are commercially not worth catching. So far, we have made quite some progress. Every time we notice improvements after correcting the position of the panel“, says Gijs Duijndam. The ‘Carolien’ is involved in a number of projects which are financed by the EU and the Dutch government. It all has to do with reducing the amount of by-catch.
According to the first mate of the ‘Carolien’ they sometimes have to deal with a mixed fisheries, while mackerel is a target species. Shoals of mackerel and horse mackerel are swimming all together. In order to avoid by-catches of horse mackerel when fishing mackerel, the captain and the mates are using advanced sonar technology. In general the by-catch rate of unwanted species in pelagic trawl fishing is very low. In most cases less than 5 %. Therefore it is a clean fishery.
Gijs appreciates and is proud about the fact that a part of the Dutch pelagic trawl fleet is involved in gathering fish stocks data. Scientists from the national research institute IMARES are joining the crew of the freezer trawlers on a regular basis. They are taking samples and collecting different data in order to get a more precise and reliable picture of the size and the health of the pelagic fish stocks.
Although the Dutch freezer trawlers do not catch any flatfish at all the favourite meal of Gijs onboard is pan fried Dover sole with mustard sauce. In between the cook of the ‘Carolien’ often delivers meals with house smoked herring and mackerel. There is a special smoke house (a wooden barrel) behind the wheelhouse of the freezer trawler.