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Kenai processor acting as buyer after bankruptcy filing

Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- A Cook Inlet fish processor filed for federal bankruptcy protection this week, but the company is staying involved in this year's salmon fishery. Chris Fischer, president of King Fischer Fisheries LLC, said his company will act as a fish buyer for another processor.

King Fischer closed its plants temporarily on Thursday and then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. Trying to get the plant going for the Cook Inlet salmon makes little sense now, Fischer said.

''In Cook Inlet, you're talking maybe a week of decent fishing,'' he said. ''Do we staff up 100 people for a week's worth of work?''

Acting as a buying station is an easy way to provide a market for King Fischer's commercial boats, he said. Fish Hawk, the other processor, will pay a commission for the salmon King Fischer buys. To operate the dock, King Fischer will need only six or seven workers.

Fischer said he now has about 15 employees in Kenai and 15 in Dillingham. The Dillingham plant is down to a skeleton crew as the Bristol Bay season winds down.

The company, formed in March to buy and operate the former Dragnet Fisheries plants in Kenai and Dillingham, got into financial trouble when private backers ran into delays arranging financing, Fischer said.

The company had until Tuesday to close the financing to buy the plants. Otherwise, the deal would be off and an escrow account forfeited. The Chapter 11 reorganization hopefully would extend that deadline, Fischer said.

Fischer's brother Matt is vice president of the company, and his sister Mary Fischer is manager of the Kenai plant. Their father, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member and former state Sen. Paul Fischer, has no interest in the company, Chris Fischer said.

He said the company has bought about 2.4 million pounds of salmon from 136 permit holders in Bristol Bay and about 60,000 pounds from Cook Inlet fishermen.



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