In case you missed it, on March 11, the Biden Administration imposed a federal ban on U.S. imports of Russian seafood in response to Russia’s invasion of neighboring country Ukraine.
While the President’s action is to be applauded, it should not have taken a literal war for it to have been executed, in my opinion. In fact, it was something that the seafood industry has said was years overdue, because after all, Russia has banned imports of U.S. seafood since 2014.
And the reason that came about was that in early 2014, while much of the world was focused on the winter Olympics at the time, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, a peninsula that had been part of Ukraine.
Following the annexation, the U.S. placed economic sanctions on Russia, and Russia retaliated by banning imports of American seafood. America however, did not further retaliate with a seafood ban of its own. The resulting one-way trade flow was not ideal for the American commercial fishing industry, particularly on the West Coast, which couldn’t sell its products in or to Russia, but could do nothing but watch as Russian seafood was able to keep a grasp on a portion of the U.S. market that would have at least in part been held by American companies.
The situation had been decried as unfair by seafood processors and other industry stakeholders for years, and the recent ban is something that had long been pushed for by elected officials, including the late Don Young, R-Alaska, who died suddenly just days after the prohibition was announced by the White House.
Back in February, Young had introduced legislation called the U.S.-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act, which would have banned the import of Russian seafood. Just before his death, he said in a statement that he plans to continue pushing the legislation as either as a standalone bill or as part of a broader sanctions package.
The legislation push was because Biden’s ban, since it was an executive order, could be reversed at some point or undone by a future POTUS. But enacting legislation would be a lasting and permanent way to ensure that one of the U.S.’s biggest geopolitical rivals doesn’t have an unfair advantage over hardworking American commercial fishermen.
Although Rep. Young is no longer with us, his goal of permanently banning Russian seafood imports may not have died with him. Under the current American political climate, there could be enough momentum to at some point pass legislation that would lastingly eliminate a disadvantage that commercial fishermen, particularly in Alaska and in the Pacific Northwest, have endured for too long, in my personal opinion.
Salmon in the Seine
On another topic, I wanted to let you know that one of Maritime Publishing’s terrific freelance journalists, Norris Comer, has a new book coming out. “Salmon in the Seine: Alaskan Memories of Life, Death, & Everything In-Between,” is his debut memoir and chronicles his time working as a commercial fisherman in the Great White North aboard a highliner salmon purse seiner while in his teens.
“I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school when I ventured north to Cordova, Alaska, in 2008 to kick off my Gap Year before college,” he wrote. “What started as an aspiration to make good money and experience a proper seagoing adventure became reality aboard a highliner salmon purse seiner after pounding the docks.”
“The ecstasy of big catches, camaraderie and budding romances, and Alaska’s epic embrace crash into tragedies like Exxon Valdez oil spill cultural trauma, a fatal cancer diagnosis, and life or death struggles at-sea,” he explained.
“Salmon in the Seine” is being published by Milspeak Books in early May and will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold.
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org