Most of you have heard about the Russian prohibition on the importation of seafood products from the United States, the European Union, Canada and others. This is a big deal, with a lot of unknown consequences, and will have a significant impact on the U.S. seafood industry. A lot of salmon roe from Alaska goes (or has gone) to Russia during the past several years. Closure of the market will mean over supply in the remaining accessible markets, which will mean reductions in the value of our roe products. The impacts are not isolated to Alaska: there is currently 1,000 metric tons of West Coast hake (a type of white fish), previously destined to Russia, sitting in cold storage with prices falling.

 

What is particularly grating is that this is a one-sided affair, and Russia is allowed to continue its destabilizing actions in the U.S., EU, and other countries in which Russian companies are currently selling seafood. Millions of pounds of red king, golden king, and snow crab are illegally harvested in Russia every year and, in essence (using mislabeling and other techniques), smuggled into the United States. It has been estimated the Alaska crab industry has lost $500 million in the last several years due to this activity.

 

On the pollock front it is equally bad. The EU (as well as the U.S.) is a huge market for our pollock products. A year ago the Marine Stewardship Council, an E-NGO self-charged with championing sustainable commercial fisheries, gave its stamp of approval to the Russian pollock fishery as sustainable. There is simply no comparison between the management systems in place to manage our sustainable pollock fishery and the Russian fishery. Frankly, it would be laughable if it wasn’t so hypocritical of the MSC and if it wasn’t imposing the economic damage upon our industry that it is.

 

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