Ocean Beauty to purchase fish plant

Processor to run this season if deal is finalized

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2003

Ocean Beauty Seafoods plans to buy the Wards Cove fish-processing plant in Excursion Inlet, about 40 miles west of Juneau.

The companies are in the process of finalizing the sale. If the sale is completed, the facility will operate during the 2003 season, company officials said. Tony Ross, spokesman for Ocean Beauty, would not comment further on the sale.

Ocean Beauty Seafoods is headquartered in Seattle and has Alaska facilities in Petersburg, Kodiak, Cordova, Naknek, Kenai and Seward.

The company likely will add frozen fillets to the canned-salmon production output of the Excursion Inlet plant, said Robert Venables, director of economic development for the Haines Borough. He has been working closely with Seattle-based Wards Cove and potential buyers of the Excursion Inlet plant since Wards Cove announced the closure of its Alaska operations Dec. 12.

"This is all I've been doing for the last three months - to make the sure potential buyers know that we're going to support the buyer as best we can," he said.

The Haines Borough receives about $160,000 per year in fisheries tax revenue from its 40-boat commercial salmon fleet, which sells primarily to the Excursion Inlet plant. The plant also contributes $32,000 per year to the borough in property taxes, and creates about 460 seasonal jobs in the area.

Wards Cove operated fish-processing plants in Alaska for more than 70 years. The announcement to close the company's nine Alaska plants left fuel companies, barge lines and fishing-supply stores in the state worrying about a dramatic decrease in business, industry analysts said.

Closing the Excursion Inlet plant would have meant fishermen in Haines would have had no major buyer for their salmon.

Wards Cove has been working with the Seattle firm Zachary Scott & Co. to find buyers for its nine Alaska plants. Several plants, including the E.C. Phillips plant in Ketchikan and Resurrection Bay Seafoods in Seward, are under sales negotiations. Ocean Beauty also plans to buy Alitak, the Wards Cove processing plant in Kodiak.

"What was a totally grim picture Jan. 1 is looking a lot more optimistic for April 1," Venables said.

Company officials would not give any details about how many fish the plant would buy or when it would be open. They advised fishermen to contact Bob Barcott or Dave Forbush Jr. at (206) 285-6800 for information about selling to Excursion Inlet.

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