HEARTBURNS… One of Alaska’s top salmon processor, Icicle makes farmed salmon leap in Chile (March 2007)

First posted 08.03.2007

Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods – one of the top processors of wild Alaskan salmon – has just announced the recent formation of Salmones Aysen SA, a Chilean company headquartered in Santiago, Chile, which will farm salmon and trout in Chile’s Region XI. Icicle’s partner in this new venture is Pablo Baraona, formerly of Fjord Seafoods-owned Salmones Tecmar. The news will rock the perception that wild and farmed salmon interests are completely at odds.

Something which Icicle’s CEO, Don Giles, acknowledges: “While we know this may give some of our friends in Alaska some heartburn, our commitment to Alaska and Alaska wild salmon is unwavering […].” Indeed, the news already drew comments from Alaskan fishermen qualifying the move as “ a major slap in the face” or “sleeping with the enemy”. Coincidentally, a WWF-sponsored report released yesterday which will no doubt get broad media coverage co-authored by renowned Alaska salmon fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp urges the importance to “recognise that the choices are not between wild and farmed salmon.”

SeafoodIntelligence.com had already years ago reported on the CEO of a(nother) Seattle-based top Alaskan salmon fishing company consideration for using AK wild salmon & groundfish waste for the production of farmed fish; something which is still on the cards, though perhaps not ‘politically correct’ at present. With the projected development of offshore aquaculture in the US (but in Alaska?), combining farmed & wild fish interests to cater for a market global by nature is probably one of the only ways forward, but it always takes a first for everything…

Icicle Seafoods, an Alaska corporation founded in 1965, is a diversified seafood company with several on-shore and floating processing facilities operating throughout Alaska in most major fisheries. It is currently one of the largest processors of wild salmon in the world. Mr. Baraona was one of the principals of Salmones Tecmar, S.A. and has been involved in the salmon business in Chile since 1992. Tecmar was sold to Fjord Seafoods in 2000.

Don Giles, Icicle’s President & CEO said in a press release dated March 7th: “Our company has had a 15-year relationship with Mr. Baraona and his team in Chile. We think this is an ideal fit, combining Icicle’s global marketing efforts and product diversity with Mr. Baraona’s experience and expertise in the salmon industry in Chile.”

Giles further stated, “While we know this may give some of our friends in Alaska some heartburn, our commitment to Alaska and Alaska wild salmon is unwavering as evidenced by our recent acquisitions of two salmon plants in Alaska the past two years, as well as the addition of Kelley-Clarke Seafood, Inc. in 2005. Most of our wild salmon customers worldwide also use farmed salmon and are demanding control and accountability from the water to their door. With this new venture we can give them the same assurance and accountability as we do with our wild Alaskan products.”

Mr. Baraona said, “My team and I are excited to be partnered with Icicle in this project. Our experiences and business together over the years has been both positive and successful for all concerned, and we look forward to working together to make SALMONES AYSEN a success.”

‘Major slap in the face’

A version of the press release was published this morning (March 8th) in the Anchorage Daily News (ADN)’s website and already some anti-farmed salmon comments have been posted by Alaska readers:

“As a former Alaskan commercial fisherman whose knows what a quality salmon is, and how hard it is to find in the lower 48 where I currently reside, I find this to be a major slap in the face. […] “I use to fish for Icicle, I will never again buy and Icicle product. I spend to much time trying to find wild Alaskan salmon to waste my time with a company that would do this to their loyal consumers.”

Another reader calling for a boycott of Icicle wrote: “I will not buy Icicle farmed salmon or other farmed product. I will not buy farmed product period. For shame! No one with any health concerns will eat farmed fish! Shame on you! Mr. Don Giles. You should know better. This is disgusting and shameful pandering to corporate profit.”

A further comment reads: “What a shame. What a slap in the face to Alaskan commercial fishermen. The commercial fishing industry in Alaska is spending millions of dollars to promote Alaska’s wild salmon in an effort to win back some of the market taken by farming. Meanwhile, a major processor is sleeping with the enemy and “pleased to announce” it.”…

SeafoodIntelligence welcomes comments from readers to comment on our stories. Substantial comments can also be published as ‘Letters to the Editor’ in our columns.

Sources: Icicle Seafoods pr, ADN & editorial comment

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