HAINES (AP) -- Ocean Beauty Seafoods announced Monday that it is planning to purchase and operate Wards Cove Packing Co.'s Excursion Inlet cannery.
The Seattle-based company said it has signed a letter of intent to purchase the facility, along with Wards Cove's Alitak Cannery in Kodiak. The company plans to operate both this summer.
The deal apparently includes purchase of the Haines Packing cannery and 200 acres at Letnikof Cove. Company spokesman Tony Ross said Ocean Beauty likely will open the facility to provide Haines gillnetters with ice and tender services next summer.
''We will be utilizing the part or parts of Haines Packing that will best service the fleet,'' Ross wrote in an e-mail to the Chilkat Valley News.
Citing market conditions, Wards Cove in December announced the closure of its Alaska salmon canneries. The Excursion Inlet property includes a cannery, egg processing plant, cold storage facility, employee housing, a store, barge dock, harbor and airstrip.
Wards Cove had previously asked fishermen to remove their boats, nets and other gear from the Haines Packing property by March 31.
Ocean Beauty plans to bid on at least a portion of hatchery chum salmon runs produced by Douglas Island Pink and Chum and Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, a fleet staple over the past few seasons.
Gillnetter Ron Sparks said the news is a relief for fishermen.
''I'm elated. On behalf of the fleet and the borough, it's good to be back in the swing of things,'' he said.
Ross wrote that some former Wards Cove administrative employees will be hired to operate the Excursion Inlet facility.
Ocean Beauty will continue salmon canning and freezing at Excursion Inlet, and will hire cannery crews in Alaska.
The Excursion Inlet cannery employed 300 and produced 550,000 cases of canned salmon and 10 million pounds of frozen fish in 2002.
Ocean Beauty is one of the largest seafood producers in the Pacific Northwest. It's been in business since 1910 and owns facilities in Petersburg, Kodiak, Cordova, Naknek, Kenai and Seward.
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