Import Ban May Not Be Stopping Russian Seafood From Entering US

Import Ban May Not Be Stopping Russian Seafood From Entering US

( – From fish sticks and salmon burgers to shrimp alfredo, Americans love to partake in the joys of eating seafood. However, most people don’t give much thought to where their fish come from — until now. As countries worldwide began imposing more sanctions against Russia to condemn its invasion of Ukraine, they’ve had to figure out how to replace resources, like oil, fish, vodka and fertilizer, from elsewhere because they previously imported those items from the Eastern nation. But, a new report from The Wall Street Journal suggests Russian seafood may still be making it through US ports.

China’s Rebranding of Russian Fish

In March, President Joe Biden imposed a ban on the import of Russian seafood, hoping to halt the $1.2 billion Americans spent last year on Russian seafood alone. However, the government could only easily stop fish directly shipped from Russia to the US. It can’t control the vast amount of seafood sent from Russia to China for processing before it’s sold and shipped to America.

According to The Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, Russian vessels harvest around 40% of the pollock consumed in the US and that Chinese factories process most of it. Additionally, seafood is relatively unregulated, meaning it’s difficult for importers to know if fish coming from China was actually caught in Chinese waters or elsewhere.

The Government Does Track Some Seafood – But Not Pollock

On January 1, 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched its Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to track 13 popularly imported fish species, such as tuna, blue crab, and red snapper. The government tracks details about these species regarding their harvest, production, sustainability, and security.

However, NOAA’s SIMP doesn’t yet extend to pollock, a main Russian export. Instead, it’s up to purchasing businesses to look into the fishes’ sourcing or ports to investigate whether the fish goes against federal sanctions. Not surprisingly, businesses and ports have a lot on their plates, meaning ensuring fish coming from China weren’t harvested in Russia is not at the top of their to-do list.

Will America Ask for Traceability or Turn a Blind Eye?

Right now, Alaskan fishermen often see Russian pollock boats out at sea, competing for the same fish. Some hope the ban on Russian seafood will allow US companies to ramp up production, and operate without as much competition on a domestic level. American fishermen would need US lawmakers to push for extensive traceability on all imports and fully enforce the ban. But, this will likely only happen if citizens lobby their representatives.

Ultimately, citizens must actively participate in their government for the system to work as it should. If a policy, issue, or bill, such as Russian seafood imports, means a lot to you, reach out to your representatives.

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