Antonio Alvarez, Sr. bought his first boat, the Marjorie France, in 1968. She was a fifty-foot long converted shrimp trawler rigged for hand seining sardines for the fishmeal trade. He had been working with his family in the palm oil business and considered expansion into marine resources as a sound idea that would diversify the family’s assets. By the mid-seventies the fleet had grown to six seiners with capacities of up to four hundred tons per vessel and in 1976 the family built its first seafood plant. The plant’s initial output was limited to three tons per hour, but with the addition of two larger plants in the early eighties, production grew tenfold and the company began to export its own product. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Alvarez expanded the family’s business into canned sardines, the family’s first venture into food fish.
In 1985 Ecuador suffered through a particularly severe El Niño (a pronounced deviation of ocean currents) and the sardine fishery was hit hard. With the sardine outlook very dim, Antonio Alvarez Sr. traveled to the United States to asses the market there for Ecuador’s bountiful production of mahi-mahi, tuna, snapper, swordfish, grouper and corvina. What he found was a rapidly escalating demand of all of these species at both the retail and foodservice level coupled with a rapidly declining domestic resource that found itself hard pressed to meet demand.
When Mr. Alvarez returned to Ecuador he shared his vision with two prominent leaders of the Ecuadorian fishing industry, Bartolomé Fernández and Jorge Appenzauser. Sensing the same opportunity as Mr. Alvarez, they became involved in the conversion of the seiner fleet to longliners in order to harvest these high demand species. With the newly converted longliner fleet in place, they established Frigolab San Mateo (Frigoríficos y Laboratorios), a food fish processing plant that continues to set the bar for excellence to this day.
In the early nineties the family joined forces with Julio Fiallo, without question one of the premier marketers of seafood to South Florida’s vibrant and growing Latin market. The need for steady production led to the acquisition of a fleet of longliners in Panama and the establishment Productos Oceano S.A., a processing plant modeled after the high standards achieved at Frigolab San Mateo. The combination of direct from the boat sourcing and dynamic marketing provided the impetus for continuous growth that remains a hallmark of our Group.
Today, our 85,000 square foot Miami home office provides executive, logistical and administrative support for over 900 seafood professionals from Manta to Miami. Our operations include the boatyards, docks, plants and vessel support necessary to keep our nearly 100 longliners fishing in the Eastern Pacific from Northern Peru to the Bay of Panama because, make no mistake, the company Antonio Alvarez Sr. started with his converted shrimp trawler in 1968 is still a fishing company.