Erik Paul Breivik
The son of Ingrid and Michael Breivik, a well-known fisherman from Veroy Lofoten Norway, Erik Breivik was born on October 12, 1941 on Veroy Island. As a Christmas present when he was 4-years-old, Erik received a knife that he used to cut out cod tongues, beginning his affinity for numbers and fish commerce by selling them for 1 ore apiece.
Leaving school at age 14, Erik signed on as a mess boy aboard Havbris that fished in Norwegian waters. At age 15 he started to work in foreign maritime trade in the Norwegian Merchant Marine. At age 18 he returned to school in Norway, this time fishing college, Fiskerfag Skolen, where he excelled. At age 20 Erik fulfilled his military service as a mariner on KNM Valkyrien. Both before and after his military service Erik served as a licensed fisherman on various vessels owned by his father, fishing off Norway as well as Greenland. The family’s largest vessel investment was the Atlantic, a 251-foot factory ship designed by Fiskerstrand & Eldoy and built by Soviknes Shipyard in Sunnmore. The vessel was delivered to owners Michael and Erik Breivik on 28 January 1973.
As time went by, fishing opportunities in Norway seemed too limited for Erik and he was invited by a group of Norwegian-Americans who had made money in the Alaska crab fishery to come to Ballard in Seattle to be fishing skipper and part owner of a new vessel, Arctic Trawler, to help develop the American groundfish fisheries off Alaska. On 14 May 1980 the Arctic Trawler set out from Seattle for its first fishing trip in Alaska as the first American-flagged factory trawler operating in the Bering Sea. Erik brought with him eight Norwegians who had worked on the Atlantic and would now help him make Arctic Trawler prove successful in catching cod in the Bering Sea. But the Pacific cod was not respected in the marketplace at that time, and Erik once again proved successful in developing markets and selling the catch of the Arctic Trawler.
Erik’s next venture was a partnership in 1982 with other Norwegian American crab fishermen to form Glacier Fish Company and build a new 201’ factory trawler at Martinac Shipyard in Tacoma, Washington, to be named Northern Glacier, designed by naval architects Fiskerstrand & Eldoy of Alesund and with major equipment supplied by Norwegian firms. Northern Glacier left its homeport of Seattle shortly before Christmas 1983 for its first voyage to Alaska as the first U.S.-built non-subsidized factory trawler operating in the Bering Sea. Erik would now be responsible not only for harvesting the fish but also running the business operations of Glacier Fish Company, which he would do from the vessel where he would work for most of the year in the Bering Sea.
When the CDQ program was created by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in 1992, Erik convinced his partners that Glacier should make a bid for the pollock quota awarded to Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC). He led the delegation that would meet in Nome to make a presentation to NSEDC. Among those in attendance for NSEDC were executive director John Jemewouk, president Paul Johnson of Unalakleet, vice-president George Ashenfelter of White Mountain, and board members Oscar Takak of Elim and Harvey Sookiayak of Skaktoolik. In addition to paying cash for lease of the quota each year, Erik suggested that Glacier would come to Norton Sound to help revitalize local herring and salmon fisheries. From the competing proposals for its pollock quota, the NSEDC board made the decision that Glacier would make the best longterm partner.
Erik brought the Northern Glacier to Norton Sound during the summers of 1993, ’94 and ‘95 to operate as a mothership for local fishermen. From pink salmon, Northern made 16 lb. frozen blocks of skinless/boneless fillets and mince for which Erik found enthusiastic markets. In addition, the Northern produced a frozen product from the eggs (ikura) for markets in Japan. To help the herring fishery Erik worked with processors such as Trident to come into Norton Sound to buy local herring from the fishermen. Erik would often talk about fond memories of him and his friend Bart Eaton of Trident helping to manage the fishery.
Within five years, NSEDC had accumulated enough wealth from lease of its CDQ to consider an investment in a major Bering Sea fishery. In 1997, Erik, John Bundy and NSEDC joined to buy out Erik’s former partners. Through that transaction NSEDC became a 50 percent owner of Glacier. As time went by NSEDC used its pollock royalties and profits to create its own infrastructure in the Norton Sound region to support its fishermen and has also expanded its investments in several other Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska fisheries. Looking back, Janis Ivanoff, President and CEO of NSEDC, observed that “the move made by the leadership in NSEDC’s early years to work with GFC and Erik was clearly the single most important partnership decision in the company’s history. This decades-long relationship has provided NSEDC with stability, a platform for growth, and certainty that its investment in GFC would be wisely managed under Erik’s guidance.”
In 2008, Glacier Fish Company acquired the Alaska Ocean from a competitor. The vessel participates in the hake fishery off Washington-Oregon and also the Bering Sea pollock fishery which has now become America’s largest fishery by volume and, at an average total harvest of 1.2 million metric tons annually, one of the largest fisheries in the World. At 376’, the Alaska Ocean is the largest harvester/processor in North America and under Erik’s management became the most efficient pollock-harvesting vessel in the Bering Sea.
In 2012, Erik’s son Mike became CEO and Jim Johnson became President of Glacier while Erik remained active in day-to-day management as chairman of the board. In 2014, Glacier acquired management and an ownership interest in North Star Fish Company LLC, which owns four factory trawlers that harvest and freeze various species in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Glacier now employs approximately 750 persons annually, including crew on the North Star vessels managed by Glacier.
Erik married Berit Aasehaug of Vegsund, Norway on 1 April 1967. Erik and Berit have two children, Michael and Fride. They all came to live with Erik in America on July 31, 1980, and later became US citizens. Berit had to work hard to keep the family together while Erik in the early days spent most of his time at sea establishing Glacier Fish Company.
Erik died at home on December 5, 2018 with his family at his side. He is survived by his wife Berit, son Mike (Ingrid), daughter Fride Fulleton (Frank), and grandchildren Cody, Erik, Tor and Liliana.