Alaska lawmakers herald Biden administration closing of loophole on Russian seafood

fishing vessels
Commercial fishing vessels docked in the St. Paul Harbor in Kodiak; Feb. 6, 2023 (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Russia will no longer be able to sell seafood to U.S. markets after processing products through other countries, according to an executive order President Joe Biden signed earlier Friday to close a loophole.

That’s after the federal government banned direct seafood imports from Russia last year.

Alaska lawmakers, especially those in fishing communities like Kodiak and Homer, heralded the news.

“I’m glad it seems to be resolved here,” state Senate President Gary Stevens said. “It just really has an impact on everyone in Kodiak, both the processors, and the fishermen, and the workers and the plants and all that. It’ll make up a level field that we can all fairly deal with.”

Fisheries have been struggling this year, and marketing executives and processors alike have blamed Russia for flooding markets with its seafood as a major reason for low prices offered to Alaska fishermen.

The initial ban on Russian seafood was enacted after the country invaded Ukraine. While Russian seafood processors have been unable to directly export products to the United States since then, they have gotten around the ban by having fish processed or “significantly modified” in other countries like China.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan said he’d been working on closing the loophole since the initial ban on Russian seafood.

“It’s a long overdue win for Alaskan fishermen, American fishermen, for sustainable and environmentally sound fisheries, and the numerous coastal communities in Alaska that support our fishing fleet,” Sullivan said.

Closing the loophole will open a huge market for domestic seafood producers to fill demand and hopes it will help raise prices for Alaska fishermen, Sullivan said.

“We have plenty of fish in Alaska that can source any of these products that you’d need,” he said.

Sullivan also touted Alaska’s standards for environmental protection and labor reputation when compared to its Russian and Chinese counterparts.

Starting Friday, Sullivan said, no new contracts can be signed to import Russian seafood from other countries. Any existing contracts must also be fulfilled or surrendered within the next 60 days, he said.

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