A new fish processor opened its doors in Kent, Washington this spring. It is operated by the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association. Revenue from the processor is expected to help fuel economies in remote communities along the Aleutian chain.
In 2013, APICDA acquired Cannon Fish Company. The Association already has two primary fish processing plants in False Pass and Atka where fish are gutted and heads are removed, but there is no secondary processor that can filet and portion fish for restaurants, cruise ships and other businesses. Larry Cotter is APICDA’s CEO.
“The fact of the matter is there is no transportation link between western Alaska and Anchorage or Southeast Alaska everything has to be shipped to Seattle,” said Cotter.
That’s why APICDA chose to open a processor in Kent – 20 miles from Seattle. For years Cannon has contracted other companies for custom processing. Cotter said the new processor translates to both a cost savings and additional profits.
“The waste that we produce, we get paid to sell that waste to somebody who converts it into meal and fertilizer. When we buy boxes of fish that come in Styrofoam, we get to sell the Styrofoam as well,” he said.
The new processor has the potential to employ 200 people. Cotter said APICDA is not recruiting in Alaska for positions in Kent.
APICDA is one of six groups in Western Alaska that are part of the Community Development Quota, or CDQ, program tasked with developing stable economies in villages like False Pass, St. George and Atka – communities Cotter says are in need of heavy investment.
“We have a plant in Atka,” he explained. “That plans operates about five months a year right now. We need to move that plant into year-round production mode as well, which will probably cost another $17 million. We desperately need a harbor in St. George and we’re already committed toward putting $10 million towards that harbor,” said Cotter.
But he said that kind of money just isn’t available from APICDA’s Western Alaska-based businesses or through royalties.
“We have to be also invested in outside profitable companies in order to generate the revenues we need to develop in our communities,” he said.
Cotter said fish headed for the Kent processor is caught by fishing families based in the Aleutians. He added Cannon Fish Company revenues increased by 20 percent in the last year. He expects the uptick to continue on an annual basis in the future.