A crab processing station owned by Pacific Northwest giant Bornstein Seafoods has been deemed “a total loss” following a blaze last week, but the company plans to rebuild the facility, the CEO told IntraFish.
Borstein’s plant in Ilwaco, Washington, caught fire mid-morning on Jan. 22, and the fire spread quickly. Firefighters spent most of the day battling the blaze before it was brought under control.
The cause of the fire won’t be known until a full report is released by the fire department, but company CEO Colin Bornstein said early indications are that freezing weather the week prior cracked conduit running into the main electrical panel. As temperatures warmed, water entered the panel.
Bellingham, Washington-based Bornstein purchased the site two years ago. The facility serviced the fleet in the area, and purchased tuna, black cod and Dungeness crab. Bornstein said the company plans to rebuild, but isn’t clear what form the facility will take.
The port of Ilwaco is one of a handful of areas where crab fishermen land their catch during the season. Bornstein will be purchasing crab from the vessels that formerly landed at Ilwaco from its Astoria, Oregon, operation.
The fire came at an inopportune time for the fleet, just weeks before the opening of the coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Washington State.
Matthew George, coastal shellfish manager with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), told IntraFish the agency does not expect there to be a major impact on overall landings, and that the blaze would not affect the season's Feb. 1 opening.
Last year, there was a record harvest of Dungeness crab in the fishery, with 28.7 million pounds landed worth $88 million (€80.9 million), according to DFW statistics. George said this year is also slated to be a strong one, according to population estimates.
Bornstein said the company was doing everything it could to mitigate the fire's impact on the community and the company’s operations.
“The major impact has been dealt with, and that is getting the vessels affected by the fire on the water with full gear and fishing,” Bornstein said.
Both Bornstein and George said it is remarkable how quickly the boats that lost property in the blaze were given donations of crab pots and other gear.
“What usually took six weeks to get done, with volunteers and donations the replacement pots where ready to fish in six days,” he said. “Pretty incredible if you ask me.”