Health officials in Alaska found no cases of COVID-19 aboard an American Seafoods trawler that recently arrived in Dutch Harbor to fish for Bering Sea pollock. The ship, the Ocean Rover, docked in the Unalaska port on Sunday, 14 June, where, according to a press release from the city, local health officials worked together with American Seafoods to screen and test crewmembers.
“In a coordinated effort between the IFHS Clinic, City of Unalaska, State of Alaska Health and Social Services, and American Seafoods, all 121 members on board responded to health questionnaires and were tested for COVID-19 as warranted. Sixteen crew members were found to have possible symptoms of COVID-19 and were quarantined pending test results. All tests returned negative. The Ocean Rover is offloading frozen product and will return to sea,” the press release read.
The Seattle Times reported earlier in the week that Ocean Rover crew members and their relatives were concerned about American Seafoods’ decision to forgo complete coronavirus testing before the vessel left Washington State for Alaska. Three other American Seafoods trawlers – the American Dynasty, American Triumph, and Northern Jaeger – have registered a total of 119 COVID-19 cases, with 94 of those aboard the American Dynasty. Those three ships and the Ocean Rover had been fishing for Pacific whiting off the West Coast, after which they typically fish for pollock in the Bering Sea, offloading their catch in Dutch Harbor.
American Seafoods spokesperson Suzanne Lagoni told SeafoodSource on Wednesday, 17 June, the three trawlers with infections were docked in Seattle where they were being sanitized while testing was completed on crewmembers. Lagoni said the company was not sure whether the boats would head north to the Bering Sea to fish for pollock.
In Dutch Harbor, Unalaska City Clerk Marjie Veeder said the Ocean Rover crew had no contact with any of the local population, adding the city has just eight confirmed cases and no recorded community transmission.
“The seafood processing industry and harvesters have been incredibly proactive and responsible for the most part. They are making efforts to protect not only their workers but the communities where they offload fish. We’ve been pretty pleased with their response,” Veeder told SeafoodSource.
According to The Seattle Times, some of the crew members that reached out to the newspaper were concerned about asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. On the American Dynasty, American Seafoods tested all crew members before sailing, but the virus spread to 94 of the 126 crew members onboard in just 15 days of fishing.
Photo courtesy of American Seafoods