In an agreement closing on June 1, major processors Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods emerged as OBI Seafoods LLC.
The deal will give the new company better leverage in a challenging global marketplace, said Mark Palmer, president and chief executive officer of Ocean Beauty, who will be the chief executive officer of OBI.
“Increased sales will bring additional investment to support growth and jobs,” he said.
Icicle’s chief operating officer, John Woodruff, is the new executive vice president for Alaska operations for OBI.
Palmer said that no big changes are expected this summer for harvesters delivering their catch to the two processors.
“We have worked together on joint tendering in the past,” Palmer said. “Those were always cooperative agreements. The tender contracts, etcetera, were already in place. They will not see much of anything different.”
The only big difference will be that the P/V Gorden Jensen, Icicle’s seafood processing vessel, along with the moored craft Northern Victor in Dutch Harbor, are not part of the merger. They will continue to operate in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and western Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries under Icicle Seafoods, a subsidiary of Cooke.
OBI will be reopening its Naknek cannery, which has a capacity similar to that of the Gorden Jensen, to process two-to-four-pound salmon in cans, Palmer said. Four-to-six-pound fish are better suited for fillets for domestic and export markets, he said.
Palmer also noted that with the market impact of the COVID-19 virus shoppers will be stocking up and canned and frozen fish more than fresh seafood, because they are shopping less frequently.
“I think for the next couple of years the canned market is going to be fantastic,” he said.
The merger package includes all five Icicle shoreside plants and all five Ocean Beauty shoreside plants in Alaska. Ocean Beauty seafoods’ smoked salmon and distribution operations will remain under its current ownership, operating as OBS Smoked & Distribution, LLC.
Ocean Beauty, founded in 1910, is owned by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., with offices in Dillingham and Anchorage, and a group of individual owners experienced in the seafood industry. Ocean Beauty has seven distribution facilities in the western U.S. and sales offices in Seattle and Tokyo.
The Cooke Family of companies in New Brunswick, Canada, has owned Icicle since 2016. With the merger, Ocean Beauty and Icicle will each own 50 percent of OBI.