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Federal government closes loophole that allowed Russia to sell seafood to U.S. markets

Russia will no longer be able to sell seafood to U.S. markets after processing products through other countries. That’s the gist of an executive order President Joe Biden signed on Dec. 22 to close a loophole, after the federal government banned direct seafood imports from Russia last year.

Senator Gary Stevens is president of the Alaska state senate and represents fishing communities like Kodiak and Homer.

“I’m glad it seems to be resolved here,” he said. “It just really has an impact on everyone in Kodiak, both the processors and the fishermen and the workers and the plants and all that. It’ll make up a level field that we can all fairly deal with.”

Fisheries have been struggling this year, and marketing executives and processors alike have blamed Russia for flooding markets with its seafood as a major reason for low prices offered to Alaska fishermen.

The initial ban on Russian seafood was enacted after the country invaded Ukraine. While Russian seafood processors have been unable to directly export products to the United States since then, they have gotten around the ban by having fish processed or “significantly modified” in other countries like China.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan said he’s been working on closing this loophole since the initial ban on Russian seafood.

“It’s a long overdue win for Alaskan fishermen, American fishermen, for sustainable and environmentally sound fisheries, and the numerous coastal communities in Alaska that support our fishing fleet,” he said.

Sullivan said this opens a huge market for domestic seafood producers to fill demand and hopes it will help raise prices for Alaska fishermen.

“We have plenty of fish in Alaska that can source any of these products that you’d need,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also touted Alaska’s standards for environmental protection and labor reputation when compared to its Russian and Chinese counterparts.

He said that, starting today, no new contracts can be signed to import Russian seafood from other countries. He also said any existing contracts must also be fulfilled or surrendered within the next 60 days.