US seafood fuel imports Russian war machine

MIAMI (AP) – Billions of dollars have been wasted on Vladimir Putin’s war machine as the United States has banned seafood imports from Russia over the occupation of Ukraine.

But deficiencies in import regulations, such as pollock, salmon and crab caught by Russia, are likely to enter the United States anyway, a key country for seafood supply chains around the world: China.

Like the American seafood industry, Russian companies rely heavily on China to implement their grip. Once there, seafood can be re-exported to the United States as “China-made” because the native country does not require labeling.

As a result, according to a study by the International Trade Commission of 2019 data, it is estimated that almost a third of the wild fish imported from China were caught in Russian waters. For pollock and sockeye salmon, the ratio is even higher – 50% to 75%.

“China does not fish. They do not catch evil. However, they are one of the largest exporters of white fish in the world, ”said Sally Yosel, former policy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who is now a senior colleague at the Stimson Center in Washington. “It’s not really fair to consumers and restaurants to be labeled as a Chinese product.”


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Fishing is a big business in Russia, which is closely linked to the Kremlin and Putin’s plan for power in the sea. The country is one of the world’s leading seafood producers and was the eighth largest exporter to the United States last year, with sales of more than $ 1.2 billion, most of which was King Crop.

But it is not clear exactly how much will land in the United States through China, which sent another $ 1.7 billion worth of fish to the United States last year. The ban on Biden management does not need to be found by companies importing from China.

Alaska Pollack is Russia’s largest seafood exporter. Koda’s cousin, Alaska Pollock, is the most widely harvested fish in the United States, found in everything from crab meat to McDonald’s pilot-o-fish. Each year, giant, floating factories in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska catch 1.5 million metric tons of fish aboard with dozens of workers, more than four times the weight of the Empire State Building.

But the same species is harvested in similar quantities in Russia. Although the United States bans the use of the name “Alaska Pollack” if it is not caught in US waters, pollack caught by Russia and processed pollack in China are hard to find and fill a key gap in the U.S. market. To complicate matters further, a small portion of the U.S. hold is shipped to China for processing and re-imported to the United States.

Instead of inventing seafood, American makers would recognize the name Alaska Pollack to indicate where the fish were caught.

“If the name Alaska is in the box, consumers can trust that it came from Alaskan waters,” said Craig Morris, chief executive of the original Alaska Pollock maker.

Even before the invasion of Ukraine, Sen. of the Republican Party of Alaska. The pressure was built to prevent Dan Sullivan from calling what he called “official” pollen, and Putin banned US seafood in 2014 following US sanctions to punish him for invading Crimea. That year. Since then, the value of Russian exports without US taxes has almost quadrupled.

The U.S. trading data, analyzed by the Associated Press, shows that High Liner Foods was the largest importer of Russian-caught bollards from China last year, with shares traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Other major importers include Flor Price, a Massachusetts – based subsidiary of Nissui, a Japanese seafood consortium; Miami-based quirky foods; And Newport, Rhode Island-based Endeavor Seafood, and its founding partner, Todd Clark, served as chairman of the National Fisheries Agency, the industry’s leading lobby group, until 2020.

No company has responded to requests for comment on whether to stop buying pollock from China or to take action to ensure it is not of Russian descent – both of which are not required by the seafood ban.

Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Association, said all members of the group are now reviewing their resource practices. But some fear a complete ban on third-party processed seafood could lead to job losses in the United States and exacerbate inflation, which has already been high for decades.

“The need to hold Russia accountable for its reprehensible actions in Ukraine is undeniable,” Gibbons said. “We aim for a strong and intelligent response and avoid unnecessary economic collateral damage to American workers.”

While Russia’s role as Russia’s energy hub is overshadowed, Russia’s seafood industry is increasingly flexing its own muscle with the strong support of the Kremlin.

Two of the country’s largest seafood exporters – the Vladivostok-based Russian Fisheries Company and the Russian Crab – are owned by Klepp Frank, the son of Putin’s former transport minister and head of the state-owned shipbuilding company Sowcomflot. Frank is the son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, Gennady Tymchenko, who was one of the first oligarchs to be allowed in following the 2014 Crimean invasion.

Frank, 39, has been called Russia’s “Crab King” and is set to become the biggest beneficiary of a government plan in 2019 to auction off a traditionally awarded fishing quota based on a previous year’s catch.

With generous government debt, his companies are at the forefront of efforts to modernize Russia’s aging navy. Last year, during the Naval Day celebration at the St. Petersburg dockyard with Putin and 50 warships, he unveiled an advanced super trawler capable of towing 60,000 tons of bulk a year.

“Today, the Russian navy has everything we need to protect our homeland and our national interests,” Putin said in a speech before the monument to Peter the Great. “We can find any enemy, whether they are under or above the water. If necessary, engage in an unavoidable strike.

Oleg Khan, one of Frank’s biggest rivals, was deported after the criminal investigation into the murder reopened at the same time as Frank exploded in a seafood scene. Later, a company associated with him raided its offices in the Far East of Russia and seized assets on charges of tax fraud and crab smuggling.

Last month, after Frank was attacked again by U.S. sanctions with his wife and father-in-law, he sold a stake in two seafood companies to several associates and resigned as chairman. The Russian Fisheries Agency did not respond to a detailed list of questions about the US ban, but said Frank had never played a role in the management of the Russian crab company.

The industry’s relationship with the Kremlin is not the only concern.

For years, activists have been complaining about Russia’s poor record in caring for its seas. The country ranks 2nd out of 152 countries in a recent study of global efforts to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing prepared by the Poseidon Consulting Agency and a global initiative against transnational organized crime. Only China scored badly.

Allegations of illegal fishing followed Russia to the South Pole, where in 2020 a Russian ship was accused of falsifying its location data and fishing illegally after the season. It was also discovered that there was a Russian observer behind conflicting capture data from several Antarctic fishing vessels. In both cases, Russia denied any wrongdoing.

Representative of the California Democrats at the congressional hearing on the Russian seafood ban this month. Jared Huffman called on the NOAA to expand its seafood import monitoring program. Like. Currently the project includes 13 species, only two of which – the Red King Crab and the Atlantic Cat – are being fished by Russia.

“Until that happens, Russian seafood will remain on grocery store shelves and American consumers will unknowingly support Putin’s war machine,” Huffman said.

But some worry that further isolation of Russia’s seafood industry could set back and slow down significant reform efforts driven by Western consumers’ demand for the appearance of fish on their plates.

Peter Quinter, a former U.S. customs lawyer, said the Biden administration could easily close China’s hole, and that importers should inspect their supply chains to make sure none of their fish came from Russia. He cited a recent law that requires retailers to obtain certification from the US government that Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province have not produced their products using forced labor.

“They can and should fix this,” Quinder said, adding that he now advises seafood companies to comply with U.S. trade law. “Gone are the old days of making sure your fish were caught in one place or country.”


Wifering reported from Washington.

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