Seafood fisheries giant Chuck Bundrant knew nothing about boats or commercial fishing when he walked the docks at Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle in the winter of 1961 and landed a job processing crab in Alaska, which he hoped would pay his way through college.
From that first job, Bundrant went on to become a legend in the industry, cofounding Trident Seafoods in 1972. At the time of his death at home in Edmonds, Wash., on Sunday, Oct. 17, Bundrant was remembered both for his shrewd business skills and the loyalty he attracted from those business partners, harvesters included.
“He treated his fishermen fair,” said Robin Samuelsen, a veteran Bristol Bay gillnetter who fished for Trident for years. “He provided excellent service; his word was better than gold. When us fishermen had complaints he looked into it. He worked with us in the Bay and it worked out for us,” said Samuelsen, who is also the chairman of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. in Dillingham.
“He engendered loyalty,” said Norm Van Vactor, president and CEO of BBEDC. “People said for all the things he had done for them they would continue fishing for Trident through thick and thin. He treated his fishermen like family.”
In its announcement of his passing, Trident Seafoods spoke of Bundrant’s ability to motivate success with a combination of high support and high expectations.
“I find I get a lot out of people when I push them,” he would say with a smile. But the same work ethic applied to himself and to helping harvesters buy boats and get loans for permits, Van Vactor said. “I’ve known him to offer up even the company jet get to take somebody for medical care.”
Caught up in the commercial fisheries business, Bundrant never went back to college.
Trident Seafoods today is the largest vertically integrated seafood company in North America, engaged in harvesting and processing and markets frozen and fresh seafood in domestic and overseas markets, with operations in China, Japan and Germany.
The company sells wild caught Alaska salmon, cod and Pollock to retailers including Costco and Safeway, and restaurants ranging from McDonalds to Long John Silver.
Bundrant helmed a company that would forever change the course of the Alaska seafood industry and help create what would become a ‘billion-dollar fish:’ wild Alaska Pollock, Craig Morris, CEO of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers remarked, adding that his passion for Alaska seafood, including wild Alaska Pollock, will be missed.
“He was an evangelist for the fish around the world, an advocacy he’s instilled in his children and all that work for Trident,” Morris said. “The notion of eating more seafood was his mission and his gift to our industry.”
Bundrant’s son, Joe Bundrant, has served as the company’s chief executive officer since 2013.