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At remote Adak Island, fish processing returns to boost local economy

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman
Fish processing will return to Adak after a newly formed company called Adak Cod Cooperative, which is made up of former Bristol Bay salmon processors. Creative Commons photo via Flickr

Fish processing will return to far-flung Adak, according to city manager Layton Lockett.

Lockett said that the city is selling the processing equipment, purchased at the June 18 auction of the assets formerly owned by bankrupt Adak Seafood LLC. The equipment will be owned by a newly-formed company, Adak Cod Cooperative LLC. The new owners are former Bristol Bay salmon processors.

Earlier this year, Icicle Seafoods announced the permanent closure of the plant that employed around 100 workers and was a major source of local revenues. Icicle operated in a huge military surplus waterfront building called the Blue Shed, owned by the regional Native corporation, The Aleut Corp., with equipment leased from a Rhode Island bank that had taken possession from a bankrupt former owner.

The city agreed to sell all of the assets purchased at the auction, except one piece of road maintenance heavy equipment, for $2.03 million. The sale includes various processing lines, cranes and freezing equipment necessary for the successful operation of the processing facility.

The city purchased the assets at an Anchorage auction with the sole intent of keeping the assets in place as a turnkey operation in order to facilitate the reopening of the plant for the January 2014 Pacific cod "A" season.

City clerk Debra Sharrah said the Adak Cod Cooperative is owned by John Lorance and Joe Kelso, owners of Ekuk Fisheries, a Bristol Bay salmon processing plant located across Nushagak Bay from Dillingham. Previously, they owned Leader Creek Fisheries, another Bristol Bay salmon buyer, she said.

One other company had made a formal offer to run the plant, Trident Seafoods. That offer was rejected by The Aleut Corporation, the owner of the fish processing building.

The successful operation of the processing facility significantly contributes to the city, the local and state economy through a variety of methods including a local raw fish tax, landing taxes paid to the state, utilization of local services such as fuel and electricity, as well as contributing to the regular transportation of goods and people to the island.

The City of Adak is the municipal government for Adak Island, which lies some 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. Incorporated in 2001 as a second-class municipality, the city provides public services and seeks to improve the economy of Adak through participation in the area's fisheries and using of the existing infrastructure from the former Naval Air Station.

This article originally appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/The Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is reprinted here with permission.