On Friday evening, American Seafoods updated the status of two of its factory trawlers that have been anchored in Bellingham Bay in Belllingham, Washington since Thursday because of an outbreak of the coronavirus aboard the vessels.
Twenty-five crew members aboard American Seafoods' Northern Jaeger and American Triumph factory trawlers tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning blow to the company, which was already reeling from a mass outbreak on a third vessel last week.
The Northern Jaeger and American Triumph were docked in Bellingham, Washington, where they arrived this week to offload catch from the Pacific whiting fishery.
The crew members that tested positive are being housed at the isolation and quarantine facility in Bellingham, the Whatcom County Health Department said Thursday night.
The vessels are now headed back to the Port of Seattle. While most of the crew on the two vessels tested negative, there were four positives on the Triumph and 21 on the Northern Jaeger. Each of the vessels has a crew of more than 110, American said.
“We have sought advice on how to improve our crew safety net," said Mikel Durham, CEO of American Seafoods.
"We have extended the quarantine before going to sea to 14 days, and we will require two negative PSR (nasal swab) tests before crew members can board or re-board a vessel."
On Wednesday, American Seafoods said it was testing crew from both vessels after a crew member on the Northern Jaeger reported feeling ill onboard last week and was transported to the hospital where the crew member tested negative for COVID 19.
Last Sunday, the company reported a total of 86 crew members aboard its American Dynasty pollock vessel tested positive for COVID-19. That vessel also docked in Bellingham before returning to the Port of Seattle.
The news of the outbreak sparked concern among other companies operating out of the Bellingham Cold Storage (BCS) facility where the American Dynasty was docked.
Seattle-based Trident Seafoods on Monday temporarily closed its processing plant located at the BCS Squalicum Harbor facility after officials at BCS said they were testing 13 employees for Covid-19. The temporary shut down was to allow for a deep cleaning of the Trident facility.
More than 100 employees work at the plant but there has been no interaction between Trident employees and crew aboard the American Dynasty or the workers from BCS who are being tested, a source told IntraFish.
BCS was testing 13 employees who work along a dock area used by American Seafood’s American Dynasty, which on Sunday confirmed 86 crew members aboard the factory trawler, which was offloading Pacific hake and preparing to leave for the opening of Alaska’s “B” pollock season on June 10, tested positive for Covid-19. The boat is now in lockdown at the Port of Seattle.
BCS CEO Doug Thomas told IntraFish at the time that the facility is currently going through a process of employee tracing to determine if any of the employees had interaction with the American Dynasty. The employees worked on the dock and were not directly in contact with the ship’s crew, said Thomas.