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Sen. Sullivan shares thoughts on competition with Russian seafood

Sullivan came to Kodiak to give his talk at ComFish in person. (Brian Venua/KMXT)
Sullivan came to Kodiak to give his talk at ComFish in person. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan is heading to Europe next month to convince trade officials there to ban Russian seafood. That was one policy goal the senator said he’s pushing in the coming month, during a visit to Kodiak’s annual commercial fishing trade show ComFish.

Sullivan addressed the elephant in the room early at ComFish, which was concern about the historic challenges fleets and processors are currently facing.

Seafood processing companies like Trident are divesting from Alaska, citing market issues. The state’s fishermen have also seen historically low prices per pound for their catch.

Sullivan spent a significant amount of his time blaming Russia for the tough year.

“We are at an economic war, in my view, in the fisheries industry with Russia,” he said. “And to a related degree, with China. Our officials in the U.S. Government need to recognize this because the Russians recognize this.”

Sullivan said Russia held a market advantage after it banned U.S. seafood products a decade ago. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Mary Peltola shared similar remarks in their video presentations on the first day of ComFish as well.

The U.S. embargoed Russian products in return, however Russian-caught fish was still being sold in American markets through a loophole. That loophole was closed when Pres. Joe Biden signed an executive order on Dec. 22, 2023 that takes effect in May.

Sullivan claims Alaskans are also disadvantaged by unfair labor practices in other countries that undercut prices on a global scale. He said he’s been trying to work with Japan, one of the world’s largest buyers of seafood, to fix the problem.

“I was able to engage with a number of Japanese senior officials, our ambassador to Japan, pressing them that they should institute a ‘Russia ban’ on seafood as well,” he said.

Sullivan said he’s also going to Europe later this month to meet with officials there about instituting a similar Russian seafood ban. He said the goal is to fill any demand and gaps with Alaskan-caught products.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo also sent a video to supplement Sullivan’s remarks. She told attendees that recent work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is more progress for the seafood industry.

“For the very first time, the U.S. national export strategy, released by the Commerce Department, includes a chapter on seafood that was drafted by NOAA,” Raimondo said.

Sullivan also talked about wanting more research in mariculture as well as including fisheries in the upcoming federal farm bill reauthorization.