On May 23 Copper River Seafoods founders Pip Fillingham, left, and Bill Bailey, right, share a retirement cake cutting with 27-year master filleter Ireneo Balinbin. Copper River Seafoods photo

Copper River Seafoods was founded in 1996 by dedicated Cordova fishermen Pip Fillingham, Bill Bailey, and Scott Blake. They all had two things in common: a passion for the Alaska wild salmon industry, and a belief in its incredible potential.

Today, their ambition and hard work has paid off. From its small beginnings, Copper River Seafoods has become a model in the art of harvesting, purchasing, processing, and delivering premium seafood.

This didn’t happen alone or overnight.

On Tuesday, May 23, a special gathering was held at the Mess Hall of Cordova’s Copper River Plant to honor one of their most dedicated employees.

On May 23 retiring Copper River Seafoods fillet artist Ireneo Balinbin displays his skills while cutting cakes honoring his 27 years of service. Copper River Seafoods photo

Ireneo Balinbin had been with Copper River Seafoods for all 27 years of its existence, and his skill with a fillet knife is legendary. Asked how long it takes to fillet a salmon, and he casually replied: “eight seconds.”

When asked how many salmon he had filleted in his 27 years, he smiled and said: “I don’t know.”


You would think he might have said “too many.”

Brandon Blake, Prince William Region Manager for Copper River Seafoods, said that was a question they would try to research, but he was sure it was in the hundred-thousands. Blake also had high praise for Balinbin’s wife Lydia, who was there at ground zero until retiring three years ago.

On May 23 Bill and Terry Bailey share a special moment with Ireneo Balinbin who is retiring from Copper River Seafoods after working there since the very first day the operation began in 1996. Copper River Seafoods photo

“They mean the world to us,” said Blake. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it hadn’t been for them.”

Balinbin left on Thursday, May 25 to join his wife at their home in Oahu, Hawaii. Who knows – he may catch a few fish there. Rest assured, he will have no problem filleting them.

Founders Bailey and Fillingham were at the gathering. Bailey gave a speech of congratulations and farewell. But he received the best applause, when while watching Balinbin carefully cutting the congratulation cake, he brightly observed “Well, that’s the last thing you’ll be cutting here.”