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Newport Plant to Remain Open; Action by Attorney General Saves 147 Jobs

May 15, 2017
The Newport plant came very close to closing. Its previous owner, Trident Seafoods, announced on April 10, 2017 that it would cease operations after years of financial losses. Pacific Seafood agreed to acquire, retrofit, and operate the facility in time for the 2017 season, but only if fishermen, the community, and DOJ agreed. Pacific Seafood sought advance DOJ review due to the Department’s concerns about past acquisitions.
NEWPORT, Ore. – May 12, 2017 – Thanks to quick action by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Newport’s surimi processing plant, the last such plant on the West Coast, will remain in Newport and open in time for the 2017 Whiting season, which starts on Monday. The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) reviewed a proposal by Pacific Seafood to keep the plant open.

Governor Kate Brown and the Legislature’s Coastal Caucus, including Senator Arnie Roblan, Senator Betsy Johnson, and Representative David Gomberg, were instrumental in facilitating review in time for the season start.

“We very much appreciate the Governor and Attorney General’s leadership in addressing this extraordinary situation,” said Dan Occhipinti, a spokesman for Pacific Seafood. “They moved quickly to reach a solution that saves 147 traded-sector jobs, retains the market for Newport’s commercial fishing fleet, and preserves Oregon’s access to a major export market.”

The Newport plant came very close to closing. Its previous owner, Trident Seafoods, announced on April 10, 2017 that it would cease operations after years of financial losses. Pacific Seafood agreed to acquire, retrofit, and operate the facility in time for the 2017 season, but only if fishermen, the community, and DOJ agreed. Pacific Seafood sought advance DOJ review due to the Department’s concerns about past acquisitions.

Pacific Seafood was the only purchaser willing and able to operate the plant in time for the 2017 season. Fishermen affected by the looming closure unanimously supported the sale to Pacific Seafood, as did all major West Coast seafood processors.

The Oregon DOJ has never previously reviewed an acquisition of this kind, let alone on the accelerated timeline necessitated by the imminent start of the fishing season. Despite those obstacles, Attorney General Rosenblum and her staff developed terms under which Pacific Seafood could acquire and operate the facility.

Under the terms, Pacific Seafood will market the plant to other viable buyers for a period of 6 months. If no buyer emerges, Pacific Seafood will operate the plant and will continue Trident’s past practices regarding ice sales and dock access by independent commercial fishermen. Pacific Seafood has already hired all of Trident’s original employees, which will ensure continuity in operations.

“This facility is an important part of the Newport community,” said Occhipinti. “We’re grateful to the State of Oregon and everyone who helped keep this plant open.”

The Newport processing facility makes surimi from MSC-certified Pacific whiting, also known as hake. Surimi is a processed fish protein that can be flavored, colored, and shaped to resemble crab, shrimp, scallops, and other products. Whiting is one of the most sustainable fisheries, and surimi is a major international commodity.

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