Biden bans Russian seafood imports in latest economic response to Ukraine invasion

Published on
March 11, 2022
U.S. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian seafood imports on Friday, 11 March.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian seafood imports on Friday, 11 March, amid a raft of new economic sanctions he’s imposing in response Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and other members of that state’s congressional delegation, who called for blocking Russian seafood imports as the country prepared to invade Ukraine, backed Biden’s move. A bill introduced into the Senate by Sullivan and fellow Alaskan GOP U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was blocked just prior to when the invasion began in February.

“Although this unfair and non-reciprocal seafood trade relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation has been harming our fishermen for far too long, I appreciate that the Biden administration has recognized the need to rectify it and support the thousands of hard-working fishermen across the country and in Alaska,” Sullivan said in an 11 March statement.

Sullivan reiterated his call for a seafood ban after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met online with U.S. lawmakers in early March. He discussed the ban in a Thursday, 10 March meeting with Biden administration officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

The seafood embargo is part of a larger set of economic moves designed to cripple Russia’s economy in hopes of using that pressure to end its military aggression against its eastern European neighbor. In addition, Biden’s order included embargoes on other Russian products, such as vodka, and exporting U.S. luxury items to the country. Biden also called on Congress to revoke Russia’s most-favored nation trading status

“We're going to hit Putin hard because the United States and our closest allies and partners are acting in unison,” Biden said in his Friday morning address.

The calls for blocking Russian seafood imports actually date back eight years after Russia banned U.S. seafood imports in response to sanctions placed by the U.S. after it took control of the Crimean Peninsula.

Blocking Russian seafood imports, though, may have an economic cost to parts of the country. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) blocked the Sullivan-Murkowski bill from getting unanimous consent on the Senate floor last month, citing the negative impact it would have on Massachusetts processors, some of which handle large quantities of Russian pollock. Seafood industry experts also have warned that a ban would lead to drastic reductions in the availability of some crab products.

In a statement sent to SeafoodSource on 11 March, a spokesperson for Markey said the senator now backs the ban.

“Senator Markey supports the administration in taking action to stop American funding of Russia’s military aggression through purchases of its products, including seafood – especially as American fishing and seafood companies have been harmed for years as a result of Russia’s ban on U.S. imports," the spokesperson said. "Senator Markey has been working across the aisle in the Senate on this important issue, and now looks forward to working with the administration to ensure that this justifiable ban is rolled out in a way that provides business certainty for Massachusetts workers and seafood processors."

Photo courtesy of BiksuTong/Shutterstock

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