AUKE BAY — This is the busy season for Alaska Glacier Seafood Co., with crews working around the clock to debone, filet and otherwise process the boatloads of salmon being brought in daily.
Company president Mike Erickson seems in his glory as he takes visitors past the cleaning stations, where a machine lops off the fish heads and workers along an assembly line remove the eggs. He moves into a processing room where the fish are trimmed and workers remove by hand bones a machine misses. And then it’s out to the dock, where fish are being removed from a boat with suction hose before being sorted by species for handling inside.
“We work hard to put a high-quality product out there,” he says.
What began as a hobby for Erickson — shrimping on the weekends — has grown into a burgeoning business that now employs about 125 people during the peak season and is seeking to further expand into value-added products, including, perhaps, prepackaged meals. Erickson said he plans to do some market testing, and has some other projects in the works, but declined to provide specifics.
Last year, 2.6 billion pounds of seafood were processed in Alaska, with a total wholesale value of about $4.5 billion, according to the state Department of Fish and Game. Seafood sourced by Erickson, much of which comes from southeast Alaska, has gone to customers around the world.
While this is just on the downside of Erickson’s busiest time of year, the company doesn’t shut down; there’s always a season, and Erickson’s company handles seafood from salmon to halibut and gray cod to crabs and sea cucumbers.
Three times in the last nine months, he says, he’s been approached by companies interested in buying him out. The state Office of Fisheries Development says businesses headquartered out-of-state currently dominate Alaska’s seafood processing industry, but for Erickson, keeping the company in the family is a “pride thing.” He sees a good future for Alaska fisheries, and no reason the business he runs with his son can’t continue on for decades to come.