American Seafoods trawler reports 85 COVID-19 cases
A trawler owned by major pollock producer American Seafoods was operating from Unalaska to Seward, Alaska on Tuesday, 20 July, when it was found to have 85 COVID-positive crew members on board.
The 285-foot American Triumph was expected to arrive in Seward on Wednesday, 22 July, where the infected employees would be transported to Anchorage for isolation, care, and monitoring.
The company first detected six positive cases aboard the vessel last Thursday, 16 July, while docked in the Unalaska port of Dutch Harbor to offload pollock. Those cases prompted American Seafoods to test all remaining 112 employees on board, with 85 workers testing positive.
Suzanne Lagoni, a spokesperson for American Seafoods, told SeafoodSource the company planned to clean and sanitize the vessel and get it back on the water.
“We have no schedule at all on that, but we do look forward to a successful season fishing for pollock up in the Bering Sea,” Lagoni said.
American Seafoods had already reported 119 cases of COVID-19 on three vessels in June during the Pacific whiting fishery on the West Coast. Four of those cases were on the American Triumph.
Lagoni confirmed the American Triumph had stopped in Bellingham, Washington, in June to offload Pacific whiting when the ship registered its first four COVID-19 cases. After cleaning and sanitizing, the vessel left Bellingham on 27 June and continued fishing for Pacific whiting “off the coast of Oregon and Washington and then headed up to Alaska to fish”, according to Lagoni.
The Seattle Times reported in June that crew on another American Seafoods trawler, the Ocean Rover, had reached out to the newspaper “to express their dismay at the company’s decision to not a make June pit stop in Bellingham for screening” before sailing to Alaska. The Ocean Rover had registered 21 cases in early June, but screening of the Ocean Rover upon arrival in Unalaska on 14 June did not turn up any new cases.
In two news releases since Thursday, the City of Unalaska repeated that the infected American Triumph crew members had been kept either on the vessel or at an isolated facility. The city stressed that while local residents should observe proper COVID-19 safety measures like wearing masks and washing hands, the community’s risk level had not been elevated significantly because of proper isolation of positive cases.
Meanwhile, Juneau, Alaska registered its first known instance of community spread, one resulting in nine COVID-19 cases associated with the processor Alaska Glacier Seafoods. KINY Radio reported on the morning of Tuesday, 21 July, that the seafood processor had tested all 113 employees and that 26 tested positive, making for a total of 36 cases at Alaska Glacier Seafoods.