Swimming upstream: Boycotting Russian seafood a tall order

Russia At War

(NewsNation) — The international push to shun Russian products could be accelerating a bid to make it easier to figure out where your seafood comes from.

Without labeling, though, it is tough to tell where any seafood comes from, so it is tricky to boycott Russian seafood. Those who follow the industry are hoping that an ongoing push for traceability gets on a fast track.

“Chances are you’ve eaten Russian seafood in the past,” said Cliff White, executive editor of Seafood Source. “You may not have known it if you’re an American consumer.”

Seafood is among the world’s most-traded commodities, and the U.S. is the biggest market. White says much more Russian seafood is in the U.S. than the $1.2 billion imported directly last year.

“A lot of Russian product actually goes through China, and that’s where the big question is in terms of Russian imports: Whether we’re capturing the full extent of Russian imports into the United States in terms of seafood.”

Russian seafood imports to China are processed into fish sticks or canned items and then marketed as a product of China.

Legal observers say the Russian ban will be tricky to enforce, but the government is well aware of that end-around.

The burden will be on U.S. importers.

“The FDA says, ‘Stop, we suspect that this shipment may include Russian federation seafood.’ It’s up to the importer to persuade the U.S. government that it does not contain any Russian Federation seafood.” said Peter Quinter, a U.S. customs and international trade attorney.

The Russian ban has brought new urgency for Congress to pass the America Competes Act, which would allow for full traceability of all seafood imports.

As it all shakes out, get ready to pay more at stores and restaurants. 

“Without Russia as a supplier, prices are going to go up for seafood,” White said. “Especially whitefish and crab.”

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