, Gloucester, MA

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February 17, 2007

New Western Venture puts owner in driver's seat

Peter Mullen's new multimillion dollar vessel the Western Venture, which the city has never seen the likes of before, arrived in Gloucester last week and should put Mullen in the driver's seat for the Gulf of Maine herring fishery next summer.

At an impressive 164-by-40-by-14 feet, the Western Venture is a European design combination of mid-water trawler/purse from which fishermen will be allowed to pull out 50,000 metric tons of food and bait fish for the 2007-2008 fishing year.

Mullen, a second-generation fisherman who immigrated to America in 1984 from the Aran Islands off of Ireland's west coast, has worked his way up here from the deck to the wheelhouse to vessel and wharf ownership. Nothing has been handed to him. Herring and mackerel are his prey.

His first vessel, the 136-foot scalloper Hercules, which he purchased in 1990 and later converted into a mid-water trawler bearing the name Western Venture after his venture west, earned Mullen the distinction in Gloucester as the first successful long-term, mid-water trawl fisherman here. Gloucester also became Mullen's base of operation as well as his home.

His foresight in the fishery, willingness to improve and adapt, hard work ethic, and support from his wife of 30 years, Julia, have contributed to his success as one of the major players in the ever-changing East Coast small pelagic fishery today.

Examples of those attributes can be seen in his holdings today. Right off, Mullen replaced the original Western Venture's tall forward mast, used for lifting, with a versatile hydraulic deck crane and the old fish and ice storing system below deck with a refrigerated seawater system that chills the fish down to 32 degrees.

When the opportunity arose, Mullen bought the old Empire Fish Co. plant and wharf along Harbor Loop. He no longer had to worry about where to dock and unload his catches in town. He also cashed in on the chance to catch herring off Maine in the summer and purchased the medium-sized purse seiner, Western Wave. Mid-water trawling is not allowed in state waters.

In addition, Mullen foresaw pair trawling becoming the way of the future to harvest herring and mackerel. He then acquired the 109-foot Osprey, a raised fo'c'sle scalloper powered by a 1,500 horse power diesel and changed it over to pair trawl with the original Western Venture. Pair trawlers share a common net and open its mouth by each towing one side of it away from each other at slightly different angles.

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