Atka Preps for Processing Growth
Friday, March 08 2013
The tiny Aleutian community of Atka could be in for some major growth over the next few years, if the Atka Pride Seafoods plant expands according to plan.
The plant is co-owned by the Atka Fishermen’s Association and APICDA, a regional community development organization. APICDA Chief Operations Officer John Sevier says processing capacity has doubled in the last year, and he expects it to double again in the next few years.
“Our expansion plans for Atka include about a 60 or 65 person bunkhouse, as well as increased capacity to somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-250,000 pounds of finished-weight product a day,” Sevier says.
The plant processes halibut, sablefish, and starting this summer, Pacific cod. The cod processing equipment that's headed to Atka includes a fish pump for the plant’s new, $1.5 million dock.
“In the past, the dock deliveries had to have taken place about three miles away from the processing plant itself, so we had to take them across the tundra basically, and into the plant," Sevier says.
The new dock can accommodate vessels up to 120 feet in length, although Sevier expects most boats delivering to the plant will be considerably smaller. In particular, he’s hoping to attract boats that would have been delivering to Icicle Seafoods’ plant in Adak.
“This year, with the probability that the Adak plant isn’t going to operate [this summer], we’re only about 90 miles away, and we’re between Adak and Dutch Harbor.”
In anticipation, Sevier says Atka Pride will be firing up its processing lines a month earlier than usual, on April 27.
Atka city administrator Julie Dirks says there should be a corresponding increase in the city's sales tax revenues.
“Which, of course, we use to subsidize some of our public services with the revenue we get," Dirks says.
It will allow us to perhaps either create or increase some of the jobs in the community for the local people, and we may use some of that towards improving the infrastructure.”
Although the changes in processing capacity are relatively recent, Dirks says it’s been a long time coming. The community started planning for a commercial fishing industry presence back in the 1980s.