Just two years after reopening, the seafood processing plant in Adak is shutting down. Icicle Seafoods didn’t return calls for comment, but in a press release, CEO Amy Humphreys cites regulatory uncertainty as the deciding factor.
Fishing in the western Aleutians has been restricted in recent years to protect an endangered stock of Steller sea lions, and an anticipated division of the Pacific cod harvest between the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands could also impact shore-based processors.
The news is a blow to the City of Adak, which relies on the processing plant for 30-40 percent of its tax revenues. City manager Layton Lockett was already bracing for a difficult year after Icicle announced in February that it would be shutting down for the summer, but the total closure came as a surprise.
“Just more shocked than anything that the plug was being pulled really quickly,” Lockett says.
Icicle purchased the plant in 2011, and it had its first full year of operations last year. Lockett says it’s disappointing that Icicle gave up so quickly, but he says the situation isn’t as dire as it might appear.
“We think there’s enough potential to still do major processing out here, and unlike the last time the fish plant closed, everybody’s paid, and we’re not looking at [a two year closure]. So, we think we’re very much ahead of the game this go-around.”
In 2009, the company that previously owned the plant went belly-up, leaving the community scrambling for revenues. Lockett says the city learned from that experience.
“We’ve been saving and putting a reserve together so that if something like this were to happen again, we would have some time. And we’re very confident that we have time.”
It’s not clear exactly what is going to happen with the plant, which is owned by the Aleut Corporation and was being leased by Icicle. Lockett says the city will work hard to attract a new processor, but until then, it’s welcoming independent fisheries ventures.
Last month, a Seattle-based company sent a shipment of live crab from Adak to Dubai, and there are plans to fly halibut off the island this summer. But the only seafood processor in the Western Aleutians is now Atka Pride Seafoods, 90 miles to the east.