Alaska community development group Norton Sound Economic Community Development Corp. (NSEDC) on Tuesday announced that it, along with it wholly owned subsidiary Siu Alaska Corp., are acquiring a controlling interest in Glacier Fish Company, one of Alaska's leading suppliers of pollock.

The group is acquiring the stake in the company now controlled by the Breivik family, according to a press statement.

Nippon Suisan and the Johnson family will remain minority owners in Glacier following the transaction.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, and the existing management team will remain in place.

Jim Johnson, the company’s current president will lead the reorganized company as president and CEO following the closing of the transaction.

NSEDC, which represents the 15 coastal communities in the Norton Sound region, owns at-sea and shoreside processing operations for Alaska pollock, cod, crab and groundfish.

"Glacier has always been a core part of Norton Sound and this ownership change exemplifies their long‐term commitment to Glacier and its bright future," the company said.

“Glacier Fish Company, a leader in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, has been a primary and fundamental component of NSEDC’s activities and success since the formation of the CDQ Program,” said Frank Katchatag, chair of the NSEDC board of directors.

What is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a federal law that regulates maritime commerce in the United States. It requires goods shipped between US ports to be transported on vessels that are built, owned, and operated by United States citizens or permanent residents. The Jones Act is Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

“Three decades of partnership with GFC have intertwined its operations with ours, and we cannot be prouder to assume control of the company with Jim and his team in the wheelhouse. It is our honor to acquire the ownership held by the Breivik family and look forward to building on the legacy that Erik fought to create as we now chart the course of this amazing company from the shores of Western Alaska.”

Long history together

At the inception of the Community Development Quota program in 1992, Glacier partnered with NSEDC, and in 1998 the Breivik family, Norton Sound and John Bundy formed a new ownership group to lead the company.

In 2008, Glacier acquired the Alaska Ocean, bringing with it a new partnership with Nippon Suisan USA, expanding its quota holdings, and acquiring a platform with tremendous potential. In 2001, Erik Breivik son, Mike, joined his father and sister, Fride, at the company and he became its CEO in 2012.

Jim Johnson joined the company in 2009 and his family became partners in 2015. In 2014, Glacier acquired ownership and management rights of Iquique US, now North Star Fishing Company, and embarked along with their partners on a state‐of‐the‐art new vessel replacement project.

The Breivik family's departure as owners and managers follows Bundy’s departure and retirement at the end of 2020.

Pollock chaos

Glacier Fish is caught up in an ongoing dispute between Alaska pollock giant American Seafoods and its shipping affiliates Kloosterboer International Forwarding (KIF) and Alaska Reefer Management (ARM) and the US government over awhat the government alleges are violations of the Jones Act.

The dispute, which is now being adjudicated in an Alaska District Court, centers around the use of a controversial shipping route between Dutch Harbor and the Port of Bayside in New Brunswick, Canada.

Exploiting an exemption in the Jones Act, American Seafoods and other pollock producers, are using non US-flagged vessels to ship the fish from Dutch Harbor, through the Panama Canal and on to Canada, where it is supposed to be moved by rail to the US boarder at Calais, Maine, and trucked to points along the US East Coast.

In a statement filed with the court in September, Glacier CEO Johnson stated his company contracts with KIF and ARM to provide logistics and transportation of its fish from Alaska to its customers on the US East Coast.

"As a result of [US Customs and Border Protection's] penalty notices and the interruption of the transportation services provided by plaintiffs, [Glacier Fish Company] is facing substantial harm to our business and reputation," he told the court.

"We currently have significant quantities of frozen products remaining in cold storage in Bayside, New Brunswick, Canada pending shipment to our domestic customers in the Eastern United States, which cannot be shipped into the United States without exposing GFC to the risk of additional CBP penalties and/or seizure of the products."

Since his statement in September, the court, in early October, granted an injunction halting the continued levying of fines against pollock and shipping companies and allowed for the release of 26 million pounds of Alaska pollock that had been held up in the Bayside facility because companies feared accruing further fines.