A bipartisan group of 38 members of Congress is urging President Biden to strengthen U.S. sanctions targeting Russia’s seafood sector, a critical source of revenue for the Kremlin since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
In a Dec. 14 letter to Biden, the lawmakers said that new executive action to ensure U.S. sanctions apply to all Russian-harvested seafood, regardless of its movement through third countries, is an important step to drain Putin’s war chest and bring an end to the war.
“Excluding all Russian-harvested seafood from the U.S. market would impose immediate consequences on the Russian economy,” the letter states.
Chief sponsors of the letter were Representatives Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.; Garret Graves, D- La.; Mary Peltola, D-Ak.; and Rob Whittman, R-Va.
To hold Russia accountable for its war on Ukraine, Biden issued an executive order in March 2022 banning Russian-origin seafood and other revenue-generating Russian products from entering the United States. Russia has gotten around the ban by exporting its seafood to third countries for processing before entering the U.S.
The House members told Biden in their letter that through October of 2023 Russian exports to China were up over 30% compared to a year earlier and have more than doubled since 2021. Large quantities Russian-harvested seafood processed in China continue to enter U.S. markets as a “product of China” at a duty-free rate, including jumbo red king crab.
Russia’s total seafood exports this year are already estimated at over $5 billion in value and the Kremlin is raising record sums off this trade through fishing quota auctions, export tariffs and increased fishing activity, they told the President.
The representatives noted that the European Union has already taken steps against the Russian seafood sector: on Nov. 27, the European Council announced finalization of a new regulation that excludes all Russian-harvested seafood from its duty-free Autonomous Tariff Quota system.
That new regulation, effective Jan. 1, would result in significant new E.U. tariffs on many Russian-harvested seafood products, even those re-processed in China or another third country, they said.