Peter Pan Seafoods has canceled processing for the A season of 2024 at its large King Cove facility, citing “tumultuous” conditions in global seafood economics, but vowed to be open for the B season, and firmly committed to Alaska, its fleet and communities where they do business.
“We did not come to this decision quickly or easily,” the company said when announcing the forthcoming closure on Jan. 12. “The industry is facing inflation, interest rates hikes, financing challenges, and high fuel costs. We have worked through these issues as diligently as possible and have explored possible options.”
“We remain committed to continuing to provide the best service and support possible to our fleet, communities, and stakeholders while continuing our mission to be an exemplary global supplier of top-quality and responsibly sourced seafood. Looking to the future, we will employ more than 1,000 this year as we open the King Cove facility for the 2024 B Season and our other three facilities as normal for the salmon season,” the company said.
In years past the King Cove processing facility has processed seafood on a year-round basis and been closed down only for a couple of weeks at year’s end. Workers there, brought in on a seasonal basis, have processed king crab, opilio crab, Tanner crab, Alaska pollock, cod salmon halibut, and black cod.
The announcement was not a huge surprise for King Cove residents.
“For quite a few months now, we knew things were not looking good and this is the icing on the cake on how bad it is,” said Gary Hennigh, city administrator for King Cove. “Clearly we hope it is short term and we are very focused on trying to learn as much as we can as soon as we can, but they are not saying a lot because they don’t know a lot.”
The economic loss for King Cove was estimated by Hennigh at between $500,000 and $700,000 in fish tax revenues.
“If there is maybe any good news, it is because we had two record setting years, primarily in pollock, cod, halibut and sablefish, where fish tax revenues gave the city a little extra money to stash away, so King Cove will be okay if this is just a temporary situation,” he said.
The community also is without fish taxes loss because of the lack of snow crab fisheries over the last two years and just a small quota of king crab this year. Hennigh estimated there wouldn’t be a strong king or snow crab season for another three to four years.
“It would be pretty scary if what it comes down to is just a summer salmon season,” he said. “We have a dependence on the fish tax, but we are not panicking yet.”
Virtually no King Cove residents work in the cannery, a situation that goes back to a difference of opinion between former owners of Peter Pan Seafoods and the community on what constitutes a living wage, with residents wanting a different pay scale than seasonal workers because they own homes there.
Aleutians East Borough Mayor Alvin Osterback noted that since the borough’s revenue was basically from raw fish taxes that the loss of a season processing at King Cove would have a negative impact on borough finances, but that at this time the borough had no further details.