Blue Harvest Fisheries files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based Blue Harvest Fisheries has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
A Chapter 7 filing means the company has officially ceased all operations and its assets will be sold off in order to compensate its creditors. Blue Harvest’s fishing partners in New Bedford reported in late August the firm planned to terminate operations imminently.
The company submitted its bankruptcy petition on 8 September to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. It is listed as having between USD 50 million and USD 100 million (EUR 46 million and EUR 93 million) in assets and between USD 10 million and USD 50 million (EUR 9 million and EUR 46 million) in liabilities. The petition was signed by Charles “Chip” Wilson, the company’s president. U.S. Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein has been assigned to oversee the case.
Blue Harvest’s assets are divided between Blue Harvest Fisheries Partners LLC and Blue Harvest Fisheries Incentive LLC, with the former owning a 92.9 percent stake in the latter. The equity holders of Blue Harvest Fisheries Partners are Bregal Partners (89.5 percent), BHV Davis LLC (4.7 percent), Jeffrey W. Davis (1.7 percent), Louise Lischewski (1.6 percent), Michael Arougheti (1.3 percent), Mark E. Thierfelder (0.7 percent), Keith Decker (0.3 percent), Daniel M. Dunn (0.2 percent), and Alex Mulholland (0.1 percent).
Bregal Partners is an investment group owned by the Dutch billionaire Drenninkmeijer family. Its ownership of the U.S.-owned fishing company was investigated by ProPublica as a potential violation of U.S. law prohibiting foreign ownership of more than a 25 stake of an American fishing firm.
Jeffrey Davis was the CEO of Blue Harvest between 2014 and 2018. Keith Decker succeeded him in 2018 and led the company until 2021. Louise Lischewski is the wife of Chris Lischewski, the former president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods. Michael Arougheti is the president and CEO of Areas Management Corporation. Mark E. Thierfelder is the co-chair of Dechert, a law firm advising asset managers and financial institutions. Alex Mulholland is the executive vice president of operations and supply chain at Blue Harvest Fisheries.
Besides Blue Harvest Equity Partners, the equity holders for Blue Harvest Fisheries Incentive are Keith Decker (2.5 percent), Richard Speed (1.1 percent), Charles Wilson (1.1 percent), Alex Mulholland (0.7 percent), Eugene Bergson (0.7 percent), Louise Lischewski (0.2 percent), John Cummings (0.2 percent), James Odin (0.2 percent), Amy Humphreys (0.2 percent), and Inge Andreassen (0.2 percent).
Richard “Rick” Speed is Blue Harvest’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, while Eugene “Gene” Bergson is the company’s executive vice president of fleet operations. John Cummings is the former president of American Seafoods, which is also owned by Bregal Partners. Amy Humphreys is the former president of Bristol Bay Seafood Investments and Icicle Seafoods. Inge Andreassen is the president of American Seafoods.
Blue Harvest is listed as owning 26 vessels and other subsidiary assets, including the Blue Harbor, the Blue Stream, the Blue Wave, the Blue South, the Diane Marie, the Blue Sea, the Blue Cove, the Blue Western, the Blue Delta, the Blue Lagoon, the Blue Eastern, the Blue Pacific, the Kathryn Ann, the Blue Ocean, the Blue Harvest, the Blue North, the Teresa Marie III, the Harmony, the Carrabassett, the Teresa Marie IV, the Blue Canyon, the Nobska, the Schelvis, the Morue, the Allagash, and the North Queen.
The filing confirms Blue Harvest’s board of directors approved the executive leadership team’s pursuit of Chapter 7 bankruptcy on 29 August.
Blue Harvest’s filing lists between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors. Its major creditors are listed as Bregal Investments, DNB Capital, Íslandsbanki, Arion Banki, Charles E. Wilson Jr., Michelle Riley, Ronald Fishman, and BHF Fish Blocker.
Blue Harvest owns about 13 percent of New England’s total groundfish permits, including more than 20 percent of some high-volume species like haddock and redfish. The company controls a large portion of the market, and the closure throws a wrench into an already fragile supply chain.
“In the short term, it’s not good,” NOAA Fisheries Sector Manager Hank Soule told The New Bedford Light. “Blue Harvest has a significant fraction of the groundfish that they are removing from the marketplace.”
That will cause supply shortages, pricing issues, and ultimately create a void in the domestic-caught groundfish market, Soule said.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said in a statement he will be working to keep the company’s fishing permits and vessels located in New Bedford.
“Blue Harvest’s decision to shutter its operations is, for sure, disappointing and disruptive to the lives of its employees,” he said. “To soften the impact, we will work to ensure the federal permits associated with the company’s vessels remain associated with New Bedford-based commercial fishing interests.”
Photo courtesy of Blue Harvest Fisheries