The Trident Seafood Corp. facility is seen at Akutan. Photo courtesy of Trident Seafoods

Trident Seafoods, a corporate giant among North American seafood processors, is looking for potential buyers for four of its shoreside plants in Alaska as part of a restructuring plan announced on Tuesday from its headquarters in Seattle. 

Such bold action is necessary to deliver fair value to fleet, communities and all stakeholders into the future, said Joe Bundrant, CEO of the company built by his father, Chuck Bundrant, starting more than 50 years ago with a single fishing vessel. 

Bundrant said he remains confident overall of the Alaska seafood industry and Trident’s role in it. He acknowledged these significant changes and said the company is focused on treating its impacted employees and communities with the respect and compassion they deserve.  

“Embracing these changes and operating a more streamlined company will allow us to reinvest in the communities, people, processes, and assets that enable us to continue our mission of responsibly sharing wild Alaska seafood with the world,” he said.  

The restructuring plan calls for finding buyers for its diverse operations in Kodiak, while operating a significantly scaled-back winter season.   

“We are competing against producers in other countries that do not share our commitment to or investments in environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and product quality,” said Bundrant. “Many of our foreign competitors operate with minimal regulatory costs and oversight, inexpensive infrastructure, and exploitive labor practices.” 

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The Kodiak plants operate nearly year-round and support multiple species, primarily pollock, salmon, Pacific cod and crab.  

“Our Kodiak operations are integral to the Gulf of Alaska fisheries,” said Jeff Welbourn, senior vice president of Alaska operations at Trident Seafoods. “They are highly efficient, multispecies plants, and we are working diligently to find a new owner to support the fleet and the Kodiak community.” 

The company confirmed that its leadership team was in Kodiak on Tuesday to meet with employees, fishermen and officials there. Trident, a major contributor to the Kodiak economy, also has facilities in Cordova, Akutan, Anchorage, Chignik, Dutch Harbor, False Pass, Ketchikan, North Naknek Petersburg, Sand Point, St. Paul and Wrangell. 

Veteran seafood economist Gunnar Knapp, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research, said all Alaska seafood companies are currently facing the same competition from global markets, with declining demand, areas of the world in recession, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, declining oil prices and more.   

“Seafood producers sell all over the world,” Knapp said. “Things are not normal for a lot of companies and this is consistent with everything we have been hearing. Times are tough. All Alaska resource industries, including oil and natural gas, are dependent on world markets that go up and down. Trident is saying this is what we have to do to deal with this situation.”   

Trident also announced on Tuesday that its regional salmon strategy would refocus operations in Southeast Alaska and Area M. The company will be seeking buyers for its seasonal plants in Ketchikan, 

Petersburg and False Pass, facilities that Welbourn said are well-maintained that align better with other operators’ strategies. Trident is optimistic that the combination of new ownership and its continued service to the fleet through Trident’s other locations will mean little to no disruption for regional salmon fleets, he said. 

Trident also plans to round out its Alaska operations strategy by retiring or seeking buyers for other assets, including the historic South Naknek Diamond NN cannery facility and support facilities in Chignik. The company is also assessing its overall company-owned vessel strategy. 

At Seattle headquarters, a 10% workforce reduction is planned. 

Meanwhile construction is likely to resume on a new state-of-the-art processing facility at Dutch Harbor, to replace an aging plant in Akutan, once other restructuring activities are completed, the company said. 

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