Peter Pan Seafood CEO Bixler Steps Down Following Season Cancellation

Image: Peter Pan Seafood.

On Jan. 22, Peter Pan Seafood said that after less than two months on the job, industry veteran Kevin Bixler is leaving the company, with plans to remain CEO until a replacement is found.

The announcement came 10 days after the company revealed that it has cancelled operations at its King Cove, Alaska facility for the 2024 ‘A’ season.

The company expressed its appreciation for his time and leadership and wished him well in his future endeavors, which were not identified in the news release.

Rodger May, president and chief growth officer of Peter Pan, meanwhile, is expected to continue leading the company along with several other managers.

Bixler began his tenure with Peter Pan in November 2022, leaving his post as the global director of group fish procurement at the Thailand-based producer of seafood products Thai Union.

At the time of his appointment at Peter Pan, May said that Bixler’s experience in the seafood industry made him a natural fit for the company.

Bixler, the son of a commercial fisherman, had been with Thai Union since 2006. He was the youngest person in Thai Union’s history to be promoted as vice president.

McKinley Capital Management in Anchorage purchased Peter Pan’s assets from Maruha Nichiro in January 2021. The processing firm specializes in frozen, canned and fresh salmon, halibut, Pacific cod and Alaska pollock, plus king crab, tanner crab and Dungeness crab. 

Economic turmoil in the global seafood industry has prompted several major processors of Alaska seafood to make a number of strategic changes in management, staffing and plans for 2024 fisheries.

Peter Pan added, though, that despite canceling the ‘A’ season, it remains committed to the industry and would be open for processing in the ‘B’ season.

The vertically integrated seafood firm said the decision had not come quickly or easily. The company noted that the seafood industry is facing inflation, interest-rate hikes, financing challenges and high-fuel costs.

“This temporary step, while difficult, is necessary to maintain our long-term commitment to the future of our business in Alaska,” the Bellevue, Wash.-based company said in a statement. “We remain committed to continuing to provide the best service and support possible to our fleet, communities and stakeholders while continuing our mission to be an exemplary global supplier of top-quality and responsibly sourced seafood.”

“Looking to the future,” the statement continued, “we will employ more than 1,000 this year as we open the King Cove facility for the 2024 ‘B’ season and our other three facilities as normal for the salmon season.”

Peter Pan Seafood has been processing seafood in King Cove on the Alaska Peninsula for over 100 years, and is major contributor the community’s economy. The company employs seasonal workers who are brought into town as needed for processing.

May, also one of the owners of Peter Pan and a seafood industry veteran, was quoted in the Alaska-focused online publication Northern Journal saying, “You can’t keep on going to work producing product and selling it at a loss.”

Peter Pan officials have said they remained steadfast in their future commitment to Alaska, the company’s fleet and the communities where it does business.

“We are grateful for the strong relationship we have with King Cove and we remain committed to doing everything in our power to support the community and fishermen during this time,” the company said.

Longtime King Cove City Administrator Gary Hennigh told Fishermen’s News that the fish tax loss alone would be between $500,000 and $700,000.

“We are very focused on trying to learn as much as we can as soon as we can,” he said. “We were not preparing for no ‘A’ season.”

Hennigh added that if there is any good news, it’s that King Cove had two record-setting years in 2022 and 2023, primarily in pollock, cod, halibut and sablefish, so the community has extra money stashed away.

“We can be okay if this is just temporary,” he said. “We were already hurting because of no snow crab for the last two years and just a little king crab this year. There won’t be a king or snow crab season for another three to four years,” he said.

“It would be pretty scary if what it comes down to is just a summer salmon season,” he continued. “We have a dependence on the fish tax. (But) we are not panicking yet.” 

Margaret Bauman is an Alaska journalist and photographer with an extensive background in Alaska’s industries and environmental issues related to those industries. A long-time Alaska resident, she has also covered news of national and international importance in other states on the staff of United Press International, the Associated Press, and CBS News. Margaret can be reached at