Many of our long-time members here at the Wild Alaskan Seafood Box know that I have a long background in the Alaskan Seafood Industry. Growing up commercial fishing out of Petersburg, Alaska and eventually operating the biggest seafood factories around the state of Alaska. In this post I am going to give you guys a quick snap shot of what it’s like at a seafood factory in Alaska!
Wild fisheries are seasonal. This means at a certain point each year the fisheries for these specific species take place. This is done to manage and sustain the fishery and ensure the resource is not overfished, so it will continue to take place generation after generation. Due to the seasonality of the fisheries, seafood factories in Alaska work on a seasonal basis. Most of these factories will work in the summer months for the salmon runs and the fall and winter months for bottom fish such as halibut, cod, blackcod, and rockfish.
Each year seafood processors return to these factories to work and help clean, freeze, and pack all of the Alaskan seafood so it can be enjoyed by people around the world. Life at a seafood processing plant is not pretty. Employees referred to as processors, come to Alaska for the long hours and overtime pay. During peak periods of the fisheries huge amounts of seafood are entering the factories. There are many times during the season where processors are working 16-hour shifts. This allow for a very quick and heavy pay check but tired and exhausted employees. After 5-7 days of this non stop work many processors hit a wall. Working at this pace for this number of hours can be insanely hard. The attrition rate of processors is very high. Many people come to work in Alaska knowing the long hours and hard work, but not realizing it until the are in the middle of it and the exhaustion takes over. On the flip side there are many processors who return to Alaska year after year and enjoy this type of work. In an average salmon season employees can walk away with enough money to live off for the rest of the year. This turns into a lifestyle choice as many processors travel throughout the year and return to Alaska to do it all over again.
Seafood processors come to Alaska from all over the world. A typical seafood plant will have employees from the United States, Philippines, Eastern Europe, and Africa. The experience itself is quite amazing. Being around people from all over the world you learn more about culture in one salmon season than most people learn their entire life.
Seafood factories present insanely hard work, but the reward always seems to keep people coming back year after year to provide incredible Alaskan Seafood to the world.