Bell Aquaculture clarifies negative media reports about debts


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
June 1, 2015

Indiana yellow perch, steelhead trout and salmon farmer Bell Aquaculture is clarifying a local media report about its financial health and rebutting the “negative aspersions” the article cast against the company.

A report in The Star Press of Muncie, Ind., on 21 May said the growing indoor aquaculture firm is facing more than USD 200,000 in court judgments stemming from lawsuits, including one from Daybrook Fisheries, a Louisiana fishmeal and fish oil producer recently acquired by South African fishing company Oceana Group. The article painted the company as indifferent toward its business partners and the local community. 

Norman McCowan, president of Bell Aquaculture, sent a copy of a letter he wrote to the newspaper’s editor to SeafoodSource. McCowan said that Bell does not have any financial obligations to any state or county economic development fund as was alleged in the article, adding that the company has invested nearly USD 100 million (EUR 91.3 million) of private stockholder funds, with more than USD 80 million (EUR 73.1 million) paid directly to Indiana suppliers.

“Because of this investment, and the hard work of our 79 employees, Bell is now one of the global leaders in this critical part of the food industry,” McCowan wrote. The company, which has “noble goals” but is “far from perfect,” he added, actually declined a USD 16.6 million (EUR 15.1 million) economic development revenue bond in 2012 and invested its own money instead, a fact that the newspaper got wrong.

However, the article did accurately identify two creditors that won judgments against the company, and the fact that Bell failed to respond to these lawsuits.

“Simply put, we did not respond because we were unaware of these lawsuits until after the judgements. These two creditors were related to our feed division. We have terminated the former feed management team, are completing a full reorganization of that division, and have been working diligently with our suppliers to strengthen and grow our relationships for the future,” McCowan wrote. “Like any rapidly growing business, we have experienced some operational challenges and occasional growing pains."

Bell is also expected to announce expansion plans later this week.

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