Pacific cod merger closes; BBNC deal set for start of October

The US’ two largest Pacific cod longline companies have officially merged, sources confirmed to Undercurrent News.

A deal between Clipper Seafoods and Blue North, which received the go-ahead from the US Department of Justice earlier this week, closed at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Sept. 13, sources said.

However, an investment in the company from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), which plans to take a 75% stake in the newly merged Blue North Clipper will take a few more weeks and will likely close at the beginning of October, sources added.

The firm Antarctica Advisors was the exclusive buy-side advisor to BBNC on the deal.

Clipper and Blue North have 20% and 17.5% respectively of the longline portion of the reduced Pacific cod total allowable catch. Clipper has a fleet of six vessels while Blue North has five larger longliners, including its most modern ship, also named “Blue North”.

Also, the company Blue North has an agreement to manage the Prowler fleet of longliners. Prowler has four vessels and 11% of the TAC. It’s not clear what will happen to this agreement after the deal, as Prowler has an option to change the setup after a change of ownership, sources said.

US Pacific cod is a drop in the ocean of global cod catches, let alone other competing wild and farmed whitefish around the world. The global catch of Pacific cod was 385,000 metric tons in 2018, with the US making up 223,000t of that, according to data presented at the 2018 Groundfish Forum in London, UK. By contrast, Atlantic cod catches represented 1.21m metric tons in 2018, with haddock catches at 315,000t.

It’s thought Blue North Clipper will be relocated to the offices of Clipper, which is seen as being the driver of the deal, they said. It’s also thought Dave Little, the main shareholder in Clipper, will ultimately head up the combined company. Patrick and Michael Burns, the brothers who founded Blue North, will also remain involved, sources said.

Undercurrent first reported the prospect of a deal for Blue North and Clipper from the $1.6 billion-turnover BBNC — which does not have any assets in seafood at the moment — in May this year. Undercurrent first reported on the sale process last August. Then, in October, sources close to the process said the plan was to sell a minority stake in the combined company, not all of it, which is not how it’s panned out.


PHOTOGRAPHY: Sunrise on the Blue Attu, owned by Pacific cod catching firm Blue North Fisheries. Photo Credit: Russel Whitson