Bellingham fish processors gearing up for busy sockeye salmon season

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 16, 2014 

Pink salmon at Bellingham Cold Storage

Jeff Haedike of Bellingham sorts pink salmon at Bellingham Cold Storage on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 in Bellingham. Local fish processing are prepping for a huge sockeye run this summer.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - In preparation for what could be the biggest sockeye salmon run in years, local processing facilities are planning to hire hundreds of people for a busy couple of months.

Bellingham Cold Storage has already hired workers for jobs like operating forklifts and scanners, and is currently looking for about 75 people for fish-processing positions.

BCS President Doug Thomas said other local fish processing facilities also are hiring workers for this stretch, including Trident Seafoods, Bornstein Seafoods, Q Sea Specialty Services and Home Port Seafoods.

This sockeye run consists of the offspring of the 2010 run, which was one of the largest runs ever recorded. A report from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada forecasts the range of returning sockeye salmon this summer to be 7 million to 70 million, with the most likely scenario being around 23 million.

A run 23 million or above would be huge, especially compared to the paltry runs a few years ago, such as the 1.3 million salmon in 2009.

With the likelihood of a big run this year, Thomas expects a few instances where BCS receives a million pounds of fish a day that need to be unloaded, prepped and frozen.

"I liken it to having seven pots on a four-burner stove," he said with a laugh. "We will be very busy."

Salmon processing is expected to last until the end of September.

Most of these positions pay in the $10-an-hour range, but Thomas pointed out there will be plenty of opportunities for overtime pay as well as an incentive program for those who stay through the whole season. BCS and other companies also try to keep the outstanding workers on year round, paying a higher wage.

Those interested in new positions can visit company websites, including the BCS site, bellcold.com.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2269. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269.

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