Seattle-based Trident Seafoods will not open its Wrangell processing plant this summer, the third year in a row the operation has been closed.
As in the past two years, the company cited weak chum salmon returns for its decision not to run the plant.
Company officials did not return calls to the Sentinel last Friday or Monday. News of the plant closure was presented in Borough Manager Jeff Good’s report for Tuesday’s assembly meeting: “They have notified us that they do not intend on running this year but are hoping for next year.”
“We would love to see them back,” Good said Friday. In addition to the jobs, the plant is a big paying customer of electricity and water when it is operating.
He said a company official talked of low chum returns when notifying the borough of the decision to remain closed this year.
Though the Alaska Department of Fish and Game preseason forecast for this summer’s Southeast commercial chum harvest is ahead of last year’s catch, it’s still below the 10-year average. Last year’s commercial harvest was 7.4 million chum, with the department projecting 8.4 million this year.
Last year, when a Trident official notified the borough that it would keep the processing lines shut down for a second summer in a row, the company indicated it needed Southeast returns of more than 12 million fish to make it economically viable to run the plant.
Predictions of weak salmon returns drove Trident’s decision to temporarily shutter its Wrangell plant in 2020. The commercial chum harvest that year came in at 5 million fish.
The company bought the Wrangell operation more than 10 years ago.
“Since Trident acquired the Wrangell facility, we’ve ran it in good times and bad, but predictions for the coming season (2020) of low abundance for both pink and chum salmon in Southeast Alaska led us to the extremely difficult decision to not operate the plant,” a company spokeswoman said in March 2020.
With the Wrangell closure, Trident in past years ran tenders to bring fish to its processing plants in Ketchikan and Petersburg. The company also owns plants in Cordova, Kodiak, Bristol Bay, St. Paul and out the Aleutian Islands.
Trident’s decision will leave Sea Level Seafoods at Heritage Harbor as Wrangell’s only processor serving the local fleet and buying halibut, crab, black cod and salmon.
Trident’s website describes the Wrangell facility as “ideally situated to service a fleet of independent purse seine and gillnet vessels fishing all species of wild Alaska salmon. Employing as many as 250 workers at the peak of the summer season, the plant ships some fresh fish, but is otherwise dedicated to the production of high-quality frozen, headed-and-gutted product. The Wrangell plant can handle up to 750,000 pounds of raw fish per day.”