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Alaska seafood CEO on fishing industry coronavirus precautions

Bering Sea (Photo, Wikimedia Commons. Author, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve)

The Alaska fishing season is getting underway, and it’s tough this year because they have to ensure the crew on the boats and, of course, the people who run the packing plants, don’t have the virus. Seattle’s Morning News spoke with Trident Seafoods CEO Joe Bundrant on the extensive COVID-19 precautions for the fishing industry, and why it’s so crucial.

“We have been diligently focused on this since early March,” Bundrant said. “Trident is located in 12 separate coastal communities in Alaska … we monitor and quarantine every person going on a vessel and every person going to a remote coastal community. We put them in a hotel for 14 days. We pay them, we give them three meals a day, we provide them with company training, yoga, meditation books …”

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“About 1% of the folks are actually testing positive, but they have to enter another 14-day quarantine period and get two negative tests at the end,” he added.

As Dave noted, part of the reason they’re so careful is because Dilingham, Alaska, still has a vivid community memory of the 1918 outbreak.

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“I was on a call with that community, and they told me that they had studied the Spanish flu of 1918 … in high school, all these folks growing up, this is part of their childhood education,” he said. “And so they’re very fearful that this will enter the community.”

The nature of the fishing industry and remote communities seems to necessitate extra caution.

“The thing that’s given me continued motivation and encouragement is the amazing support that I’ve had from the Trident family for doing this. He just said, ‘Look, under the abundance of caution, we do not want to be responsible for bringing the virus to these remote sites,'” he said.

“Or even more challenging is you could get it on one of your ships, like the Navy or the folks in the cruise line industry. One of our competitors just pulled into Bellingham yesterday, and someone needed to be rushed to the hospital. They were fishing off the Oregon coast and they tested the crew and 85 people tested positive — that’s how quickly it can spread on a ship.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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