After fears, crew of American Seafoods vessel tests negative for COVID-19 in Unalaska

The F/V Ocean Rover left Bellingham, Washington on May 29, and arrived in the Port of Dutch Harbor Sunday evening after a voyage of 16 days, 15 hours. (Hope McKenney/KUCB)
The F/V Ocean Rover left Bellingham, Washington on May 29, and arrived in the Port of Dutch Harbor Sunday evening after a voyage of 16 days, 15 hours. (Hope McKenney/KUCB)

The crew of the F/V Ocean Rover, an American Seafoods vessel that arrived in Unalaska late Sunday afternoon for summer pollock season, have tested negative for COVID-19.

The arrival of the 255-foot boat had generated concern among Alaskans after more than 100 asymptomatic crew members aboard three of the company’s other factory trawlers tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.

“In a coordinated effort between the IFHS Clinic, City of Unalaska (Fire/EMS, Ports, and Police), State of Alaska Health & Social Services and American Seafoods, all 121 members on board responded to health questionnaires and were tested for COVID-19 as warranted,” according to a press release from the City of Unalaska. “Sixteen crew members were found to have possible symptoms of COVID-19 and were quarantined pending test results. All tests returned negative.”

American Seafoods is based in Seattle and runs six vessels that fish for pollock, hake, and sole in both the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

Three of its six-vessel fleet have now had positive cases of COVID-19, including 92 people on the American Dynasty, four on the American Triumph, and 21 on the Northern Jaeger.

Until last week, the Seattle-based company said it required only a five-day quarantine, far less than the two weeks that it can take for people infected with COVID-19 to show symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On June 5, the company announced it would boost efforts to keep the virus off its boats, raising its five-day quarantine requirement to the 14 days required for fishing companies operating in Alaska, and the amount of time recommended under state and federal guidelines.

The Seattle Times reported last week that the crew of the Ocean Rover underwent the same shorter quarantine period as the crews of the other three vessels, and that some crew members and families of crew were concerned that some might unknowingly be carrying the virus.

American Seafoods told the Times in a statement Thursday that the Ocean Rover had been at sea for a month, and that “the vessel and its crew are in full compliance with Alaska’s COVID-19 related requirements for fishing vessels.”

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