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Murkowski and Peltola comment on Russia’s role in historic challenges to seafood industry

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Mary Peltola gave video presentations on the first day of Kodiak’s commercial fisheries trade show, ComFish. The seafood industry is facing historic challenges and the pair hope closing a loophole on Russian imports could help bolster Alaska’s presence in markets.

Murkowski and Peltola addressed the current state of Alaska’s commercial fishing industry in a pre-recorded video on the opening day of ComFish.

Both noted the industry’s historic slump has led several seafood processing companies like Peter Pan and Trident to sell off plants. Others, like OBI Seafoods, are looking to improve efficiency by closing a plant.

The common claim from the companies has been a tumultuous global market. Rep. Mary Peltola told attendees she blames the industry’s struggles on Russia undercutting the U.S.

“Alaskan fishermen are at an unfair disadvantage competing against the unsustainable fishing and forced labor in foreign imports,” she said.

Russian seafood products were banned from the U.S. years ago, however there was a loophole in the legislation. Russian-caught fish being processed in other countries like China were still allowed to be imported and sold in American markets.

That loophole was open until President Joe Biden signed an executive order closing it on Dec. 22, 2023. The new ban will take effect in May.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski shared a similar sentiment in her video as well.

“When I spoke to you all a year ago there was really no telling what 2023 had in store for us,” she said. “We did not know the extent to which Russia’s predatory pricing would upset the global market. We did not know that base prices for salmon would plummet.”

To help stimulate the industry, Murkowski said she’s working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue purchasing Alaska seafood. The USDA bought about $200 million worth of Alaska seafood last year, and has already announced plans to buy nearly another $150 million worth this year.

Murkowski also brought up a continued push from Alaska’s congressional delegation to include fisheries in the upcoming federal farm bill reauthorization. She and Sen. Dan Sullivan brought the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, to Kodiak last year to show parallels between fisheries and farming.

Sen. Sullivan gave an in-person presentation at ComFish on April 13.