Tulalip Tribes acquire commercial seafood enterprise in Blaine Harbor

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The Tulalip Tribes recently acquired a seafood processing building in Blaine Harbor, and they reportedly plan to expand the enterprise, which sells live crab and other seafood to markets on the West Coast and in Asia.

In late December, Sound Pacific Seafoods LLC sold its facility at 285 Marine Drive to the Tulalip Tribes, known formally as the Tulalip Tribes of Washington. The facility consists of an 8,000-square-foot building and a 117-foot dock. The land underneath the building is leased from the Port of Bellingham, which approved an assignment of the lease at its December 10 commission meeting.

“The tribe is very involved with the fishing industry and has a reputation of improving all the properties that they obtain,” said Paul Burrill, who was the co-owner of Sound Pacific Seafoods and did not disclose the sale price. “They are going to be good partners in our community.”

Burrill said that his company did a lot of business with the tribes, and that the transaction evolved from their good working relationship. “We did a considerable amount of business with the tribe, and at one point they came to us,” he said. “We never really offered it for sale, but they gave us a proposal and it eventually became acceptable. It was about a year-long process but we finally came to terms and the sale took place right about Christmas time.”

Sound Pacific Seafoods first purchased the facility and started the company in 2014. Its primary focus was live-crab purchasing from tribal and state fishermen in Washington, Oregon and California. The company would purchase live crab, put them in bulk containers, prepare them for shipment and resell them to other wholesalers on the West Coast. Much of the product was sold into the Chinese market, after being chilled, packaged and transported by truck to the Vancouver airport.

According to Burrill, some members of Sound Pacific Seafoods will be staying on with the tribes. “The tribe plans to continue and, I expect, expand operations in Blaine, which will be an economic benefit to the area,” he said. “There should not be any interruptions in the service that was provided before.”

As for Burrill, he plans to help start a new venture in Blaine named Dakota Creek Shellfish SPC. The corporation, of which he is the president and co-founder, will focus on oyster seed, seaweed and kelp production. It will sell oyster seeds to small oyster growers in California, B.C. and Alaska for farming and eventual human consumption. “These small growers have a hard time obtaining the seed to satisfy the market,” he said. “We want to eliminate bottlenecks in the industry and give these small growers more options. They can then go out and chase boutique, smaller markets.”

Meanwhile, Dakota Creek Shellfish will work to promote innovative uses of kelp including human consumption, CO2 capture, wave attenuation and the creation of forage fish habitat. Burrill, who is on the board of Whatcom Family Farmers, said that kelp can also help reduce carbon emissions from cattle farms. “There’s lots of methane production,” he said. “What I would like to see is us produce low-methane beef and dairy.” Dakota Creek Shellfish plans to eventually construct or acquire a new facility in Blaine.

According to Port of Bellingham spokesperson Mike Hogan, the Tulalip Tribes will pay the port a monthly rent of $1,453 plus tax for 22,115 square feet. The new tenant qualifies as a “Water Reliant Commercial Marine Business,” allowing it to take advantage of a discount rate for marine trades and working waterfront uses. “That’s another way that we support our working waterfront and make our waterfront properties attractive to those job-creating uses,” said Hogan. Calls to the Tulalip Tribes were not returned.

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