Cooke closing True North seafood processing plant in New Bedford

True North Seafood is planning to close this facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts
True North Seafood is planning to close its facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts | Photo courtesy of Google Maps
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Cooke is closing its seafood processing facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A. and moving its operations to a plant in Suffolk, Virginia. 

The New Bedford plant operates under Cooke subsidiary True North Seafood and will be closed over the next 60 days, a statement from Cooke provided to SeafoodSource states. The plant’s operations will be consolidated in a Virginia-based Wanchese Fish Company plant that processes scallops, shrimp, oysters, crab, and “many fish species.”

A Google street view of the True North Seafood processing plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Wanchese Fish Company is a division of Cooke Seafood U.S.A. The company has an exclusive agreement with Daniels Trawlers, the company that acquired multiple scallop vessels from New Bedford-based Blue Harvest. Blue Harvest has since filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and had the majority of its assets sold at auction.

The New Bedford plant currently has 58 employees and contracts for the services of 36 workers, and Cooke said it is offering employment support services for those impacted by the closure.

“No customer disruptions are expected during this transition,” Cooke said. “It is not expected that this will change the landings of any fishing vessels that utilize the Port of New Bedford, which ultimately supply product to the company.”

New Bedford Port Authority Executive Director Gordon Carr told the New Bedford Light that the plant was primarily an importer, and the closure will have little impact on the city.

“With the premium on processing space on the port, I don’t expect it to be vacant for very long,” he said.

The plant was itself acquired through True North Seafood’s acquisition of Mariner Seafood in 2020. Mariner Seafood applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on 14 September 2020, and True North Seafood lined up as the stalking horse bidder for its assets.

This also comes just under a year after workers staged a demonstration at the plant, protesting the company’s decision to fire two female fish cutters, which they claimed was in retaliation for a report of sexual harassment by a supervisor. The workers, the New Bedford Light reported, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which is still investigating the allegations.

True North said at the time that the women were fired for cause, and the firings were unrelated to the reports of sexual harassment. The supervisor at whom the allegations were leveled was also fired.  

The closure of the True North Seafoods plant is taking place almost exactly one year after Blue Harvest closed its processing plant operations in New Bedford, the first sign of the company’s impending bankruptcy.

The closure also marks the second U.S. plant closure by Cooke in 2024. In February, Cooke announced it was closing a Wanchese Fish Company-operated fish packing plant in Wanchese, North Carolina. That plant is slated to be closed on 29 March and will also be consolidated into the Suffolk, Virginia plant.

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