Lost in the ongoing news about the hits to seafood from the Trump Administration’s trade war with China is another international trade barrier with Russia that’s been going on far longer.

In August of 2014 Russia placed an embargo on U.S. food products to retaliate for sanctions it and other Western countries imposed over Ukraine invasion issues.

That included Alaska seafood products, which accounted for more than $61 million in sales to Russia, primarily pink salmon roe.

Prior to the embargo, Russia was the second most important export market for Alaska salmon roe after Japan, accounting for more than 76 percent of roe export value.

But here’s the kicker: For the nearly six years that the embargo has been in place, no corresponding limits were placed on Russia selling seafood into the US despite initial outcries of “tit for tat”  by the industry and Congressional members.   In fact, the value of Russian seafood imported by the U.S. has grown nearly 70 percent since 2014. And it all comes into the U.S. almost entirely duty free.

A four page white paper from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute outlines the trade imbalance.

For example, the U.S. imported $551 million of seafood from Russia in 2018, plus $50 million of pollock products from China that was caught in Russia.  U.S. crab comprised 84 percent of the value of Russian imports just in that one year.  Alaska and Russia harvest many of the same fish and crab species and many Russian products compete in the U.S. at much lower prices.

The trade report reveals how ASMI worked hard to build markets in Russia starting in 2006, and steady growth boosted Alaska pink salmon prices from 2010 through 2013 which benefited fishermen and the overall industry..

ASMI predicts the trade imbalance will only get worse as Russia aims to nearly double the value of its seafood exports by 2024 to over $8 billion.

Huge investments are underway to increase and modernize its capacity by building more than 20 new processing plants and 90 new fishing vessels by the year 2030.

The plan also includes the launch of a new marketing and supply chain strategy called “the Russian Fish.”

Total investments by Russia to its fishery sector between 2018 and 2025 are pegged at nearly $7 billion.

(Thanks to the assist from Deckboss)


U.S. Imports of Russian Seafood Year $Millions
2012 $229
2013 $326
2014 $320
2015 $316
2016 $410
2017 $455
2018 $551

From NMFS trade data