PHOTO ESSAY: Bellingham Cold Storage

Bellingham Cold Storage has been a fixture on the waterfront for more than 50 years. The facility serves everything from...

By Lauren Owens
For The Bellingham Business Journal

Founded in 1946, The Bellingham Cold Storage Docks is the largest cold storage shipping area on the West Coast and serves a worldwide customer base. BCS is home to 11 different fishing companies and several privately owned businesses aiding in the packaging and shipping processes of everything from salmon to caviar.  The Bellingham Cold Storage Docks is ground zero for all things fish.

Boxes weighing up to 55 pounds are filled with frozen fish by Icy Strait fishing company before being shipped to Japan. A group of mostly female workers labor over the frozen packing process and are responsible for the grading, sorting, and placing of salmon into their proper containers.

Salmon are graded based on size, quality, and species; premium fish are given grade A.  Grade B and grade C denote less impressive examples. This year’s salmon run in the Puget Sound provided the largest catch of sockeye salmon since 1913.

In the glazing room, fish are thrown onto a belt covered in shallow water. The frozen fish collect an extra layer of ice so they don’t become dehydrated and will be preserved for longer.

Freshly glazed salmon are collected and placed into large boxes to be held in the cold storage room where minus 20-degree temperatures keep the product frozen as they wait to be shipped.

No part of the fish gets wasted at BCS. The leftover bones and skin are processed through a grinder, eventually making salmon sausage and pate.

Fish eggs are a healthy food and packed with amino acids.

The eggs are separated from their membranes and are poured into a large strainer to be sorted and prepared for the curing process.

In a large curing vat, the brine is 100 percent-saturated with salt (regular seawater is at 5 or 6 percent salt), which permeates the skin of the eggs, displacing some of the water and removing excess membrane. Two men wearing smocks and rubber boots gingerly stir the red eggs.

The eggs are sorted into grades one to three based on color and texture. Grade one is a premium smaller egg; grade two is a more mature egg with a harder shell; grade three eggs are almost ready to spawn and have harder, thicker shells.

When the eggs are ready to be dried and packaged, they are strained and dumped.

A worker weighs the product into separate 2.2-pound containers that are moved into a modified atmosphere-packaging machine that sucks air out of the containers, replacing it with nitrogen.

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