Trident closing Chignik plant

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

KODIAK (AP) Seattle-based Trident Seafoods is closing its Chignik salmon-processing plant, leaving a five-village community with one processor for the 2004 salmon season.

In a letter to the Chignik Fishermen's United Village of Chignik, the company said it was closing the plant because it had not been able to buy enough fish during the last two years to make operating the plant profitable. Trident said it lost millions of dollars on the plant.

The company stressed its commitment to marketing and product promotion, and said it had been willing to accept the risks involved in operating during recent downturns in Chignik salmon runs.

But it said since the implementation of the cooperative fishery there, the company has not been able to get enough raw product.

Trident cited the co-op's refusal to guarantee the company 20 percent of its 2004 sockeye harvest for a price competitive with Norquest as the reason for closing its plant.

Axel Kopen, president of the Chignik Seafood Processors Alliance, said Tuesday that co-op fishers have been in negotiations with Trident. They asked for 45 percent of the overall harvest of the Chignik run. Trident demanded that the co-op guarantee them 20 percent of the co-op run. Trident gave the co-op less than three days to work out the details, Kopen said

"We begged to meet. We were willing to work out some way to keep both processors open," he said.

Despite the plant closure, Kopen said he expects all sockeye fishers will have markets this season. NorQuest, the other processor in the area, has the capacity and is willing to buy both co-op and independent fish, he said.

Implemented to improve fish quality and reduce fishing costs, the Chignik cooperative can only operate if more than 50 percent of the fishermen join. Out of 100 Chignik salmon permits, 77 joined for each of the two years the co-op has operated.

Kopen said he is strongly behind having more than one cannery in the area. But, he said, co-op fishermen have sold their fish to NorQuest under a solid, market-based contract from the start.

''I don't worry about having one processor. But it is nice to have two competing for fish,'' he said.

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