Alaska’s Bristol Bay Native Corp. is set to take over a large chunk of the state’s freezer longline Pacific cod quota with the pending purchase of a newly merged Clipper Seafoods and Blue North Fisheries.

Last week, the Department of Justice approved the merger, and the corporation is expected finalize on Sept. 30 the purchase of a majority share of the new company.

“It’s exciting for us. When the opportunity presented itself about a year ago, we had already been looking for seafood investments for a couple of years. Having an opportunity to acquire these businesses and what they represent is a big deal for BBNC,” said Jason Metrokin, the president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp.

The DOJ reviewed the merger to ensure it would not create a monopoly in Alaska’s freezer-longline Pacific cod fishery. The two processors control 37.4 percent of the total allowable catch in the fishery, with Clipper managing 20 percent of the harvest, and Blue North handling 17.4 percent.

The corporation posted $1.7 billion dollars in revenue in 2019 from current activities in oil and gas servicing, petroleum distribution, construction, and tourism, among other things. It has not, however, been involved in the seafood industry since it owned a majority share of Peter Pan Seafoods in the 1970s.

“Coming from the Bristol Bay region, which is all about fish and the seafood business, we have an eternal value in the corporation where we talk about fish first. That means everything we do business-wise or as stewards of the land, we think about fish first and benefits for our fisheries,” Metrokin said. “Having the opportunity to get back to the seafood sector not only meets our business and cultural values, it will be an income diversifier for us as well.”

Both Clipper and Blue North are Seattle-based companies. Metrokin noted that Bristol Bay Native Corp.’s ownership will shift more of the fishery’s value back to Alaska’s local economy and his organization’s 10,000 shareholders.

The new company will be organized under Bristol Bay Alaska Seafoods, a newly organized corporate subsidiary. Former Clipper Seafoods President David Little will stay on as the CEO of the merged company, while Blue North leaders Michael and Patrick Burns will also continue to be involved in operations.

“They will still own a minority interest in the combined business,” Metrokin said of Little and the Burns brothers. “We’re excited about using their expertise, knowledge and customer base. They have a successful track record in the Bering Sea freezer-longline cod business.”

Brian Hagenbuch is National Fisherman's products editor, a contributing editor to SeafoodSource and a Bristol Bay fisherman. He is based in Seattle.

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