In a classic case of “Who’s on first?” a lot of Newport-based whiting fishing boat crews are wondering if they’re going to be frozen out of the whiting season which starts at mid-month. At issue is whether fishermen will have a buyer for their catch.
The trouble started a while back when Trident’s seafood processing company agreed to sell their Newport facility to Pacific Seafood, another seafood processor. Pacific runs a big seafood operation just down the street from Trident. Pacific offered to buy the Trident facility. But out of concern that the purchase could trigger an allegation of creating a seafood processing monopoly, Pacific Seafood asked the State Attorney General’s Office to evaluate the purchase and determine if such an allegation might stick. With the beginning of the Whiting season set for May 15th, Pacific Seafood needs a very quick response.
Enter Oregon State Representative David Gomberg and State Senator Arnie Roblan. Rep. Gomberg told us that special legislation to declare the sale “right and proper” wouldn’t have enough time for full review and enactment. So they’re back to the DOJ. Gomberg says there are five to seven major fish processing operations up and down the coast, and if those outfits can’t handle the Newport Whiting fishermens’ catch, and those fishermen say they’ve been told they cannot, then there is no monopoly. It’s more like a shortage of fish processing capacity.
Governor Brown has also been contacted about the situation and she clearly doesn’t want the loss of over a hundred jobs all over a question of whether there would be a credible complaint of monopoly.
Late this afternoon Pacific Seafood General Counsel Dan Occhipinti said that with a looming start date on the whiting season they have guaranteed the 25 full time Trident workers continued employment. Pacific will hire them no matter what. Occhipinti also added that they are proceeding on good-faith that the sale will go through and are already making improvements to the Trident plant in anticipation of the beginning of the whiting season.
But as last night, there remains close to 150 seasonal jobs still on the line.
So, we’re 10 days away from the 15th and everyone is wondering how the State Department of Justice will view the situation. A spokeswoman for DOJ told us this afternoon that she’s not sure when they’ll have an update.