US seafood companies have just days left to import seafood from Russia in order to comply with President Joe Biden's executive order prohibiting seafood of "Russian Federation origin" as part of its response to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
The US Department of the Treasury recently issued more details on the order, stating the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has also issued Russia-related general licenses "to authorize the import, for a limited time, of certain items pursuant to pre-existing written contracts or written agreements" that will authorize "importing fish, seafood, and preparations thereof."
The US Treasury said the Office of Foreign Assets Control could also issue licenses on a "case-by-case basis" for shipments occurring after that March 25 deadline.
The US ban was issued last week in coordination with the European Union (EU) and the Group of Seven (G7) countries, said a statement from the White House.
US seafood industry trade groups are largely backing Biden's move to ban Russian seafood but remain concerned it will not be enough to stop all seafood originating from Russia.
Several experts and executives in the seafood industry told IntraFish this week about the challenges with tracking Russian seafood that goes into China for reprocessing before showing up in the United States.
"International seafood trade is complex, and it would be hard to say precisely how a US ban on Russian seafood will play out as far global redistribution and changes in consumption," McKinley Management Consultant Heather Brandon told IntraFish.
"Russia was the eighth largest direct seafood exporter by value to the United States in 2021 at $1.2 billion (€1.1 billion), and the main products were snow crab, king crab, and cod. Those products may find other markets depending on the rapidly changing global trade policies of other nations."
One issue Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers Executive Director Jamie Goen sees with the US ban is crab from Russia is only required to be labeled with country of origin if it's raw or uncooked. The majority of crab from Russia that comes into the United States is cooked, and could slip through the cracks, she explained.
"Nobody is sure how this is all going to play out in the markets," she said of the executive order's reach.
Most of America's imported Russian whitefish also takes a detour via China, but there is no specific import data that separates out the origin of the fish for US regulators to accurately track.
Trident Seafoods CEO Joe Bundrant recently told IntraFish that the US ban on Russian seafood imports could include products reprocessed in China, but that it would be tough to enforce in an "unregulated business."
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