Deal talks between Trident, the largest vertically integrated seafood company in the US, and Peter Pan’s owner Maruha Nichiro are still active, sources following the deal told Undercurrent. “It’s more a case of when and not if,” one said.
It’s not clear if the deal will close before the salmon season, however, due to the issues the coronavirus pandemic is causing, he said.
For the upcoming season — seemingly even if an acquisition isn’t closed before the start — the plan is for Trident to process its fish from the Alaska peninsula fishing area, known as “area M” (see below), in Peter Pan’s King Cove and Port Moller plants, said sources on the fishing and processing sector who asked not to be quoted by name.
This then means that the JV plant in False Pass Trident has with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA) won’t be needed this season, sources told Undercurrent. Trident invested in what was an APICDA-owned plant named Bering Pacific Seafoods in November 2017. APICDA and Trident, which operates the plant and is thought to have a majority stake, have renamed the plant False Pass Seafoods.
Joe Bundrant, CEO of Trident, confirmed to Undercurrent the False Pass plant won’t open this year. He declined to comment on the Peter Pan processing arrangement, or deal talks, however.
In a statement given to stakeholders, Trident cited the coronavirus pandemic and also the low forecast for pink salmon runs as reasons for the move.
you can see see the statement in full below:
"This week, Trident began communicating to our employees, the fleet, and the community that we will not be operating our False Pass Seafoods processing facility this summer. This difficult decision is in response to increased uncertainty in the marketplace due to the COVID-19, the 2020 salmon projections, and the costs and logistics of managing risk in a remote community during the pandemic. "We will continue to operate the fuel facility and provide limited vessel support through the summer. We are also working with the Eastern Aleutians Tribes to utilize our bunkhouse as a potential resident quarantine space. Fleet services will not be impacted. Independent fishermen who deliver to Trident in Area M will enjoy the same level of service and support that they have experienced in the past. Trident employees who typically work in False Pass will be offered positions at other locations for the 2020 season. "Our acquisition of the False Pass plant is a long-term investment in the fishery and the community. We are hopeful that conditions improve and we’ll be in a position to resume operations next season."
“Trident recognizes that the processing capacity in area M is far greater than the fish available,” an Alaskan seafood sector veteran, who asked not to be named, told Undercurrent. “So, considering the huge expense they will incur quarantining incoming people for 14 days, why not cut those numbers as much as possible by ponying up with Peter Pan?”
Trident will still run its Sand Point plant, which is on the opposite, eastern end of area M, he said.
The Trident/APICDA False Pass plant would have had to be staffed with new workers brought in and quarantined before the season, whereas Peter Pan has staff in place at King Cove, which operates for most of the year, he said.
“To handle Trident’s July area M fish at Port Moller, they [Peter Pan] will probably staff up to a higher level. However. Peter Pan’s operational mode has always been to take fish that Port Moller can’t handle into King Cove, as that plant quite large and not too busy the first three weeks of July. So, it will not be like doubling the workforce,” he told Undercurrent.
King Cove has the largest canning operation in Alaska, whereas Port Moller — which was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 2017 — will be used for fillets, said a fishing sector source who asked not to be quoted by name.
Barry Collier, CEO of Peter Pan, did not respond to a request for comment.
Undercurrent previously reported that the high level of competition in False Pass, with the Trident/APICDA plant and Silver Bay Seafoods’ massive new facility, meant Peter Pan was a “tougher sell”. Peter Pan had lost fishermen to both Silver Bay and Trident, sources said.
The other big piece of Alaska salmon consolidation, the merger between Cooke’s Icicle Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ operations in the state, has also still not closed.