Trident Seafoods has restricted access between its Akutan plant and the local town in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Akutan, a small city of about a hundred people, lies 35 miles east of Unalaska. It also boasts the largest seafood processing plant in North America. The plant, which is operated by Trident Seafoods, hosts an additional 1,400 employees, and is just a half-mile walk from the rest of the town.
There is no airport on the island. Instead, visitors and residents must fly to the island of Akun and, from there, take a helicopter to Akutan.
While the island does have a small, sliding-scale clinic with two healthcare providers, there are no doctors. The nearest hospital, Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, is nearly 600 miles away.
The new measures are to "prevent the virus from entering our plant and to be able to complete our A-season operations," said Stefanie Moreland, Vice President of Government Relations, Seafood Sustainability, and Corporate Social Responsibility for Trident in a statement.
Pollock fishing in Alaska is split into four seasons, with the first two—A season—running from January through April. B season is due to begin in June.
Under Trident's new measures, crews delivering to the plant must stay on their boats, no new employees will start at the plant, and current employees are restricted from visiting the town. If they leave the plant, they cannot re-enter.
Joe Bereskin, the mayor of Akutan, said that, under the old system, it was only a matter of time before coronavirus hit the rural city.
“I appreciate their effort to try and beat the curve down there," said Mayor Bereskin. "That’s what they're trying to do."
So far, it seems as though Trident Akutan has taken the most drastic steps by any processing plant in Alaska.
During a press conference on Wednesday, both Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska Anne Zink and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services commissioner Adam Crum said that the state hopes to keep processing plants operating, and that there are currently no plans to shut them down.
During the 2017/2018 season, Alaska processors harvested 5.7 billion pounds of seafood, worth $4.7 billion. Seafood accounted for 70 percent of the state's manufacturing employment in 2018.
Correction: This story previously misstated the size of Akutan. It has since been updated with the correct information.