From the Editor: Russian Seafood Import Ban

In case you missed it, the Biden Administration has imposed a federal ban on U.S. imports of Russian seafood in response to Russia’s invasion of neighboring country Ukraine.

While the administration’s ban, which was imposed in mid-March, 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 on March 18 – 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 opinion.

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at