Peter Pan Seafood had decided to shutter its seafood processing facility in King Cove, Alaska, U.S.A. for the 2024 “A” pollock season.
Peter Pan's King Cove facility – located 600 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula – is the Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A. company’s largest processing plant and typically processes king crab, opilio crab, Tanner crab, Alaska pollock, cod, salmon, halibut, and black cod harvested in both the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska year-round.
With origins dating back to the early 1900s, the plant has the largest salmon canning capacity of any plant in Alaska, though in recent years, the company has expanded the plant to accommodate a larger throughput of whitefish, including the production of pollock fillet blocks, shatterpack fillets, mince, and surimi, according to Peter Pan. At the peak of its winter and summer seasons, the plant employs around 500 employees.
“We are saddened to inform our fishermen and the King Cove community that Peter Pan Seafood will not be able to operate our King Cove facility for the 2024 A Season. This is an unfortunate but temporary step. We will be open for the 2024 B season, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to Alaska, our fleet, and the communities where we do business,” Peter Pan said in a 12 January press release. “We did not come to this decision quickly or easily. The current state of the seafood industry is tumultuous, and it has impacted many operators in the region. The industry is facing inflation, interest rate hikes, financing challenges, and high fuel costs. We have worked through these issues as diligently as possible and have explored possible options. This temporary step, while difficult, is necessary to maintain our long-term commitment to the future of our business in Alaska.”
Alaska's A pollock season is scheduled to run from mid-January through April, while the B season stretches from June through October.
Peter Pan Seafood said it remained committed to King Cove in the long term.
“We are grateful for the strong relationship we have with King Cove, and we remain committed to doing everything in our power to support the community and fishermen during this time,” it said. “We remain committed to providing 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 [employees] 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.”
Alaska’s seafood-processing sector took a hit in 2023, battling low prices and demand, a 2022 inventory hangover, and a collapse of its crab fisheries. In December 2023, Trident Seafoods announced a plan to sell several of its processing plants in Alaska, and Peter Pan has been in talks with Silver Bay Seafoods to form a joint venture focused on combining processing operations in Valdez, Alaska.
Peter Pan Co-Owner Rodger May said Alaska’s major processors are facing difficulties affording labor and transportation costs.
“It's one of the most difficult days of my life,” May told the Northern Journal. “You can't keep on going to work producing product and selling it at a loss.”
May said his company remains “asset rich” and is not close to declaring bankruptcy.
Through 2023, Peter Pan faced a series of liens filed by Alaska fishermen and companies for unpaid deliveries of seafood. The company said this was ultimately resolved after it found a replacement for its lender, which decided to move away from the seafood industry. It has also dealt with the departure of several key executives, including Jon Hickman – its former president of Alaska operations.
Photo courtesy of Peter Pan Seafood