Icicle Seafoods closed its plant in Adak last month, but fisheries business on the island didn’t grind to a halt — fish buyers are moving in to fill the void left by the processor.
Pete Hartman is in charge of purchasing for Hart Sales, a fish broker based out of Victoria, B.C. He says a group of small-boat fishermen approached him in February looking for someone to buy their halibut, sablefish and rockfish this summer.
“Our first shipment in Adak was the 26, I believe, of March. And we’ve got a commitment that we’ll stay with them throughout the entire season.”
Hartman is leasing space from the Aleut Corporation for his production line.
“We offload at the dock, the fish is brailed over, we grade the fish out — we’re packing the fish out for fresh — and the fish is delivered up to the airport, and flow out from there to our markets.”
Hartman’s not the only one who’s noticed Adak. In March, Washington-based Premier Harvest shipped 12,000 pounds of live golden king crab off the island, and city manager Layton Lockett says there’s been interest from other buyers as well.
“It’s exciting, and it’s definitely leveraging the assets that the Navy left behind that we’ve kept going, and the fish that are out here.”
Lockett says while the small operations aren’t making up for everything that was lost with the plant closure, they’re certainly helping out.
“You know, from the city as a tax base, to the people who… there’s some people employed now, to the boats that can still come in and deliver, to Alaska Airlines that carries this stuff out. Everybody’s making a little something off of this, versus having absolutely nothing.”
That doesn’t mean Adak is going to stop looking for someone to fill the processing plant. Lockett says he’s optimistic that there will be a new company in there by next January. But he also sees room for the smaller operations to continue — especially those dealing with specialized markets like fresh and live fish.