Trident reopens Akutan processing plant after month-long COVID-19 closure

A bunch of large warehouses on the side of a mountain
Akutan Volcano, on Akutan Island, overshadows the village of Akutan. Nearly 1000 people are employed at the large Trident seafood processing plant. (Helena Buurman/Alaska Volcano Observatory)

Trident Seafoods’ huge processing plant on the remote Aleutian island of Akutan reopened Friday after a nearly month-long COVID-19 closure. 

A major outbreak at the plant had forced the fishing giant to close the facility in late January just as the lucrative winter season was set to kick off. Nearly half of Trident’s 700-person workforce ultimately tested positive for the virus, company officials said Monday.  

Multiple rounds of testing brought welcome news last week: COVID-19 cases had been isolated on site, Trident said in a statement. Surveillance testing, symptom screenings and the use of PPE and distancing protocols will remain throughout the season. 

The company said it has also developed additional measures to speed up a response if the virus is detected again. Those include new shift schedules to limit contact between workers, and capacity limits to allow distancing outside of workstations, from the galley to the area for donning and doffing rain gear.  

“While these new measures are burdensome, we anticipate cooperation and understanding, given everyone’s eagerness to safely return to work,” said Stefanie Moreland, a Trident executive. “The management team on site has been working to make sure these operational changes do not come as a surprise, and to ensure our employees know their safety is our priority.” 

More than 100 workers who had been quarantined in Sand Point and Anchorage arrived back in Akutan over the past several days to help with crab and cod processing, the company said. It’s preparing to resume pollock processing this week.  

Trident has faced a number of challenges since the start of the year.

In addition to the Akutan shutdown, the virus also hit one of the corporation’s massive factory ships as it arrived in Unalaska last month. And last week, another floating processor caught fire while docked at a Washington port. Trident said the vessel is a total loss.