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86 crew on American Seafoods fishing trawler test positive for COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Factory trawlers like the American Dynasty have onboard processing facilities where the working conditions are similar to those at meat packing plants.

PortandTerminal.com, June 2, 2020

Working conditions on fishing trawlers are like those at onshore meat processing plants and quickly spread COVID-19 once it enters the system

SEATTLE, WA – Fishing trawlers it seems are like those at meat processing plants when it comes to their cramped, damp working conditions. Once COVID-19 makes its way into one of these types of environments it spreads quickly.

According to a press release issued by American Seafoods on Sunday night, 86 crew members on one of their trawlers have tested positive for COVID-19. Nine tests are still outstanding.

The American Dynasty — a 272-foot trawler whose home port is Seattle, WA — had previously reported one crew member tested positive and was admitted to the hospital on Friday, May 29, for treatment.  As a result, the company decided to test the entire crew, and on May 30 an additional 85 crew members were confirmed positive.

The factory trawler was most recently in Bellingham, WA, and has returned to the Port of Seattle where it is currently under lockdown. All crew members are being quarantined and monitored by medical personnel, the press release said. 

Fishing Trawler docked in harbor
American Seafoods is based in Seattle and Dutch Harbor and maintains a fleet of six vessels that fish for pollock, hake, and sole out of both the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

American Seafoods is based in Seattle and Dutch Harbor and maintains a fleet of six vessels that fish for pollock, hake, and sole out of both the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea. The American Dynasty can carry a crew of 142, according to the operator’s website. It was last in Dutch Harbor for one day on March 31, and is set to return for pollock season, according to American Seafoods spokesperson Suzanne Lagoni.

Fishing trawlers typically catch large quantities of midwater species, such as pollock or cod, and flatfish, such as sole and mackerel, by towing a large, cone-shaped net.

The largest vessels in the ocean pollock fishery are factory trawlers – like the American Dynasty — that possess onboard processing facilities that process, package, and quickly freeze every product while at sea. Bering Sea pollock is one of the largest fisheries in the world, and has been for more than 20 years.

According to American Seafoods CEO Mikel Durham, all crew members were screened and tested for COVID-19 antibodies and viral infection before they boarded the vessel. Only those who tested negative for the virus were cleared to board. 

Somehow though, the virus still found its way on board.

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