Trident Seafoods temporarily closes Covid-affected Akutan plant for testing

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Trident Seafoods, which claims to be the largest vertically integrated seafood harvesting and processing company in North America, had to temporarily close a plant in Alaska amid a number of Covid-19 infections.

The first of four cases at the Akutan processing plant emerged last weekend with one employee testing positive, and the other infections were discovered when the worker’s three roommates were tested. All four had tested negative for the virus two weeks earlier.

In a statement released yesterday (January 21), privately held Trident, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, said it would suspend operations for three weeks while it undertakes “comprehensive” testing and to “support a preventive quarantine” for the 700 workers.

The Akutan site has the capacity to process up to three million pounds of raw fish per day, including wild Alaskan pollock, Pacific cod, king crab and Alaskan snow crab and halibut. The company as a group exports to more than 50 countries and has operations in the United States, Japan, Europe, China and Latin America.

CEO Joe Bundrant, the son of founder Chuck Bundrant, said in a statement: “This serious action to shut down operations is necessary to allow us to do everything we can to provide a safe working environment and resume full operations. as quickly as possible.

“Our review of protocols has so far shown that our robust quarantine protocols have been followed closely and have been successful. We have not determined how the virus entered Akutan, but we are investigating any potential gaps. »

The closure comes during a busy time for Trident as pollock season kicks off. “It’s extremely difficult and impactful to do this,” said Stefanie Moreland, vice president of government relations and seafood sustainability at Trident. “A pause in operations is a sacrifice and a burden for all of us at Trident, as well as for our partners. We are working on a variety of scenarios to ease the burden on everyone affected by changes to our operating plans.

Moreland said the company made the decision to close the plant based on advice from the state of Alaska and “with knowledge of lessons learned from others in our industry.”

All 700 staff will be confined to their working accommodation during the shutdown with full pay and will benefit from daily health checks.

“We know Covid-19 is now on the site, and until we test everyone, we won’t know how widespread it is,” Moreland added. “We believe that with the full cooperation of the employees on site, we will be able to resume full operations in approximately three weeks.”

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Tanya S. Norvell