Peter Pan Seafood has been processing Alaskan seafood including salmon, halibut, crab, and caviar since 1912. With processing plants in Dillingham, Port Moller, King Cove, and Valdez, they employ approximately 1,310 people during peak season.
The fishing industry in Southwest Alaska is facing a significant blow as Peter Pan Seafood announced the decision to keep its large plant in King Cove closed for the winter. Peter Pan Seafood informed local officials of the closure last week. King Cove city administrator Gary Hennigh reported that the plant generates roughly one-third of the community revenue. The company will not be processing seafood which contributes nearly $2 million in yearly fish tax revenue to the small community.
Peter Pan Seafood has also announced that only workers from previous seasons will be hired for the 2024 A Season. Due to the number of returning workers and the closure of the King Cove processing plant, there will be no new hires will be interviewed according to the company website.
“It’s one of the most difficult days of my life,” Rodger May, one of the company’s owners and said in a brief interview. “It’s just a devastating time for the industry.”
This closure is the most recent indication of the growing uncertainty in Alaska’s seafood markets. These markets are grappling with reduced global demand across various species and facing fierce competition from Russian producers.
Last month, Trident Seafoods, one of the biggest seafood processors in the country, announced that it is selling one third of the company owned Alaska plants. Four of Trident’s processing plants in Alaska are now for sale in Kodiak, Ketchikan, Petersburg, and False Pass. Ocean Beauty Seafoods revealed that distribution operations are currently for sale. Additionally, salmon fishermen in Bristol Bay organized a floating protest during the summer, expressing dissatisfaction with historically low prices offered for their catch.
“You can’t keep on going to work producing product and selling it at a loss,” Roger May said, adding that his company remains “asset rich” and is not close to declaring bankruptcy.
In 2020, Roger May collaborated with two investment firms, including McKinley Capital Management based in Anchorage and utilized funds from Alaska’s state-owned Permanent Fund to fund the purchase of Peter Pan Seafood from the Japanese owned seafood company Maruha Nichiro.
Last year, a group of fishermen and companies lodged liens against Peter Pan Seafood due to outstanding payments for seafood deliveries. Among those who filed a complaint is Deadliest Catch reality show personality captain Johnathan M. Hilltrand, of Time Bandit fame.