Invention of the Fish Power Block - King of Purse Seine Fishing

writen by Adam Eterovic, USA,
source at

A Croatian who has done more than any other man to change the face of the fishing industry is Mario Puretich. In 1938, Puretic left his home on the Island of Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia to seek a better life in the United States. He was just one more among those millions who had come to the New World looking for something more than the old country could offer.

Among those hordes, most of them did make it a bit better than they would have made it back home, but only a few of them, comparatively, made it big. Mario Puretich is one of them. To stretch a simile almost to the breakng point, Mario made a better mouse trap and the world beat that proverbial path to his door. The world is still treading that well-worn path and it will continue to do so as long as men continue to take fish with the net called the purse seine.

Puretich envisioned and designed a piece of fishing gear of essential simplicity that has remade the purse seine fisheries of the world. This tool, known since 1955 as the Power Block, hauls purse seines with their catch. The Power Block looks like a 1arge pulley with an aluminum shell, and a hard rubber sheave, the central rotating element, does the work.

Before Puretich and his Power Block, it took the work of eight to ten men to operate a salmon seine. It was work of the most difficult kind. Puretich's invention enabled the salmon seiner to do the same work with five or six men. Puretich, a hard-working fisherman, had become concerned about the difficulty of hauling nets. Where there were men content to complain about this task, Puretich, characteristically did something about it. He designed a work saver.

It took him several months in 1954 to come up with what eventually evolved into the Power Block. Success did not come quickly. The prototype tested out perfectly, but for a while no one seemed interested. Then, in Seattle, Marco, a marine construction and design company, recognized the potential of Puretich's design, and their engineers quickly developed Puretich's prototype into a production line practicality. Another phase of fishing history had begun.

The need for the Power Block was immediately recognized, and numbers had to be designed to impatient skippers on a first-come, first-served basis to keep things running smoothly. The year was 1955. By 1960, most vessels in the northern seine fleet had installed the Power Block.

From the Puget Sound and the salmon fleets, the Power Block swept around the world. It made possible the renaissance of the moribund United States distant water tuna fleet, an event that put the United States into the forefront of that world-girdling fishery and has kept it there, helped by the adoption of synthetic fibers for netting.

More than 12,000 Power Blocks in a dozen sizes and configurations are at work around the world. It hauls the nets that take most American and Canadian salmon; it takes herring and sardines in those global fisheries it takes tuna of the vast equatorial waters, and the anchovies of the northern and southern seas, the billions of menhaden of our East and Gulf Coast. These fish make up the better half of the world's annual catch. Since its invention, the Power Block has been adapted by more than eleven thousand vessels in every major purse seining fishery in the world. The Power Block has revolutionized the fishing industry by making the work more efficient and more profitable. Puretich, an inventor, has changed the seining industry and he wants to change it again.

As long as there have been purse seines, they have been hauled from either port or starboard side of the vessel. Now Mario wants to convert that method to hauling the net over the stern and wants to see seining made safer through stern hauling, while uppermost in his thoughts is the saving of some hundreds of thousands of lives of porpoises in the world tuna fishery. Puretich believes that porpoises can be saved by his method and would end the burning controversy between environmentalists and pragmatic tuna men.

This educational campaign, an effort to convince seine fishermen to change their method, depicts the manner of man this Croatian is. His creative energy has envisioned scores of projects, and some are in the patent stage, some are being built and used. Fishermen are a tough breed and hard to change, but Puretich understands them, he is one of them. He has brought honor to his fellow countrymen and an easier way of earning a livelihood to his fellow fishermen.

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