Legislation introduced in February by Alaska’s two U.S. senators would ban the import of all Russian seafood products into the U.S. to response to Russia’s ban on the import of U.S. and other western seafood products since 2014.
Senate Bill 3614, the United States-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act of 2022, which was introduced on Feb. 9 by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, would prohibit import of any Russian Federation seafood or seafood products into the U.S. The prohibition would be terminated only if and when the Russian Federation ends its ban on the import of U.S. seafood products.
The bill notes that in 2014 the Russian Federation invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and that the U.S. and its allies responded by imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation, as a result of what the U.S. termed hostile and illegal action. The Russia Federation retaliated by imposing an embargo on agricultural products, including seafood, imported from the U.S., the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway.
Prior to that embargo the Russian Federation had been an important export market for seafood products from the U.S.
Russian-origin seafood products have continued to enter the domestic market without restriction. Imports of such products increased roughly 173% in value between 2013, the year before the embargo, and 2020.
Chris Barrows, president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, said that the embargo left Alaska’s seafood producers unfairly locked out of key seafood markets.
The senators aim to alleviate actions that have harmed fishermen’s prospects, while also taking the Ukraine situation into account.
“As Congress works on a sanctions package to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, it’s important that we explore all sectors of the Russian economy that we can influence, such as restricting imports of Russian seafood,” Murkowski said.
“Most Americans would be astounded to learn that Russia has unfettered access to sell its seafood in the United States at the same time America’s fishermen and seafood processors have zero access to the Russian markets,” Sullivan said. “This is just wrong and hurts our fishermen.”
The bill was introduced last month in the midst of renewed tensions between the U.S. and Russia, as American officials braced for a Russian invasion of neighboring country Ukraine. Russia at the time denied that it planned an invasion, despite an estimated 190,000 of its troops and other personnel amassing at the two countries’ shared border.