Russian Seafood Imports Loophole Squeezes Shut

The Biden administration has issued an executive order that shuts the door on U.S. imports of Russian seafood. Image via office of Sen. Dan Sullivan.

In an effort to level the playing field for America’s commercial fishing industry, the Biden administration has issued an executive order that shuts the door on the import of Russian seafood.

The action approving a long-sought end to a situation where Russian seafood continued to pour into U.S. domestic markets long after Russia’s 2014 ban of the import of American seafood. The presidential executive order was issued on Dec. 22, setting the clock ticking for 60 days, after which importers who have outstanding contracts must have their purchases imported from Russia.

“The United States has been clear: those who are supplying goods or processing transactions that materially support Russia’s military industrial base are complicit in Russia’s brutal violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” President Biden said in a written statement.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control identified salmon, cod, pollock and crab as subject to the ban.

“If you’re an American importer, you better know where it was coming from,” warned Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, who played a major role in getting the action through. “Russia’s decade-long ban on nearly all America-produced seafood products has created a completely unfair, one-sided trade relationship that has significantly hurt Alaska fishermen.”

In a Dec. 22 news conference following the Biden administration’s announcement, Sullivan called the executive offer “a long overdue win for fishermen for sustainable, environmentally sound fisheries.” It was an incredibly unfair trade imbalance, he said. “They were eating into our market share, in hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Sullivan said that Russians and the Chinese “have the worst record for the environment, sustainability and slave labor” in the seafood industry. He also said their fish are often injected with phosphates and water to make the fish weigh more and bring in a higher price.

“There have been some importers in the Lower 48 who tried to block my legislation, saying they rely on these imports,” Sullivan commented. “This should wake up importers relying on a bad business model.”

The expansion of executive order 14068 prohibits importation into U.S. domestic markets of all seafood “harvested in Russian waters or by Russia-flagged vessels, even if these products are then transformed in a third country.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the new executive order a stabilizer “that will help end Russia’s evasion of sanctions and China’s dumping of overharvested Russian fish onto American markets.”

“That, in turn,” she said, “will help seafood prices recover, restore balance and basic fairness to markets and cut off a key source of funding for Putin’s catastrophic war in Ukraine, all at the same time.”

“By sending its seafood to China for processing, it became a product of China for purposes of U.S. country-of-origin labeling,” Murkowski explained. “China then exported that seafood to the U.S. undermining the sanctions regime, domestic markets, and hardworking Alaska fishermen who harvest seafood sustainability.”