Trident Seafoods said Dec. 12 that it’s looking for potential buyers for four of its shoreside processing plants as part of a restructuring initiative to streamline its Alaska operations and refocus the company’s global commercial strategy.
The company also revealed that it plans to reduce the workforce at its Seattle headquarters by 10%.
The announcement comes as Trident acknowledges the need to adapt to the changing dynamics of the global seafood industry. Trident CEO Joe Bundrant said the restructuring is designed to focus operations and investments on assets to fuel that shift.
This includes plans to seek buyers for Trident’s diverse operations in Kodiak while operating a significantly scaled-back winter season. The Kodiak plants operate nearly year-round and process multiple species, primarily pollock, salmon, Pacific cod and crab.
Trident Senior Vice President of Alaska Operations Jeff Welbourn said that Trident’s Kodiak operations are integral to Gulf of Alaska fisheries.
“They are highly efficient, multispecies plants and we are working diligently to find a new owner to support the fleet and the Kodiak community,” he said.
The company has said that its regional salmon strategy would now refocus operations in Southeast Alaska and Area M, with Trident seeking buyers for its seasonal plants in Ketchikan, Petersburg and False Pass. These operations, Welbourn said, align better with other operators’ strategies.
“We are optimistic the combination of new ownership and our continued service to the fleet through our other locations will mean little to no disruption for regional salmon fleets,” Welbourn stated.
Veteran Alaska seafood analyst Gunnar Knapp noted that all Alaska companies that process natural resources, from fisheries to oil and gas and mining, are dependent upon world markets, which go up and down.
“While there is a tendency to look at big corporations and think all they do is generate profits, their work is highly complex and difficult and nothing is guaranteed, and with seafood, fishermen are at the end of all this,” he said. “We should not be surprised when an industry tells you times are tough … and they go on to take fairly dramatic steps.”
“Eventually the light at the end of the tunnel is we have a fishery that is the envy of the world,” Knapp added.
“Alaska has mostly healthy fisheries that can provide the basics, but they have to be able to operate within the cost and price structure on a global scale,” he explained. “When you have depressed conditions, companies downsize and get leaner and leaner to compete. Companies come and go, but their assets are still there.”
Trident also announced that it will retire or seek buyers for the historic South Naknek Diamond NN cannery facility and the support facilities in Chignik, while assessing its overall company-owned vessel strategy.
Beyond Alaska, Trident will be streamlining and optimizing its head office support functions, with a 10% reduction in employees.
Company officials said the restructuring allows Trident to modernize its processing facilities throughout Alaska. Last August, Trident announced a delay to a three-year plan to build a new state-of-the-art plant in Akutan. Construction there is expected to resume once the restructuring is complete, officials said.
Modernizing and re-tooling remaining Alaska facilities to be more sustainable operations allows the company to continue supporting as many fleets and communities as possible in Alaska for the long term, Welbourn said.
Trident’s strategy reflects realities facing other U.S. seafood producers who are contending globally with declining demand, excess supply and foreign competition, all factors that have driven prices down, squeezed margins and displaced them from markets they had developed over decades.
“We are competing against producers in other countries that do not share our commitment to or investments in environmental sustainability, social responsibility and product quality,” Bundrant remarked. “Many of our foreign competitors operate with minimal regulatory costs and oversight, inexpensive infrastructure and exploitive labor practices.”
Bundrant said that he remains confident in the Alaska seafood industry and Trident’s role in it.
“These are significant changes, and we are focused on treating our impacted employees and communities with the respect and compassion they deserve,” he stated.