Trident's Oregon surimi plant to remain open

Pacific Seafood will operate the facility, but is required to seek other buyers for set period.

Under the terms of a deal reached Friday, Pacific Seafood must attempt over the next six months to sell market to a surimi plant in Newport, Oregon, it hopes to eventually buy from Trident Seafood.

The unusual stipulation is part of an agreement reached with Oregon regulators. If no viable buyer comes forward, Pacific will be able to go ahead and purchase the plant.

Pacific Seafood, which was approached by Trident earlier this year to acquire the plant, asked regulators to give it assurances that if it buys the plant, the state would not seek antitrust action against the deal.

Additionally as part of Friday's deal, Pacific Seafood agreed to 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, as part of an unusual deal it struck Friday with the Oregon Department of Justice.

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, the agency said.

Despite those obstacles, Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum and her staff developed terms under which Pacific Seafood could acquire and operate the facility.

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

Thursday, the ODOJ in a scathing letter to Pacific, placed several conditions on Pacific's purchase of the Trident facility.

The company was asking for ODOJ assurance that the agency would not challenge Pacific’s plan to buy a Newport, Oregon, Pacific whiting plant now owned by Trident Seafoods.

The ODOJ responded Thursday afternoon, threatening to take enforcement action against the company unless it agrees to put the Trident plant on the market for a year and, short of a sale, operate it for at least three years, according to a letter obtained and printed on Friday's Oregonlive.com.

To do otherwise, the ODOJ, said in the letter "would show a clear violation of antitrust laws."

The ODOJ said in the letter that Pacific was seeking to "immunize" its plant acquisition.

"Your request is extraordinary, as DOJ has never granted prospective immunity of this type and the Oregon antitrust act provides us with no express authority to grant it."

The agency set out several conditions whereby it would not take any enforcement action at this time against Pacific, although it did leave open the door to revisit enforcement in the future.

"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," Pacific said in a statement.

The Newport plant came very close to closing. Trident Seafoods, announced on April 10, that it would cease operations after years of financial losses.

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