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Alaska pollock sector praises closure of Russian export loophole. Wild Alaska Pollock industry leaders are united in thanks and praise for the Biden Administration, as well as Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, and others, for leading a decisive effort to close a loophole that had previously allowed American consumers to unknowingly purchase lower quality Russian-harvested seafood, thereby risking directly blunting U.S. demand for seafood and indirectly supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) announced today. This most recent Executive Order concretely closes the pathway for lower quality Russian-caught fish like Pollock to enter the U.S. market and ensures American consumers have more transparency into the seafood products they purchase.

“This Executive Order is a significant win for Team Wild Alaska Pollock and we are eternally grateful to the Biden Administration and our Alaska and Washington Congressional delegations for recognising this need and taking swift action,” said Bob Desautel, GAPP Chairman of the Board. “Our goal at GAPP is to ensure that consumers know the story behind their seafood purchases and we’ve invested heavily at GAPP in encouraging brands to put our name on front of package and on menus. Closing this loophole ensures that our brand—Wild Alaska Pollock—isn’t tarnished by countries harvesting the fish who don’t adhere to the high standards we do around quality, labour, sustainability and continuous improvement.”

The Biden administration announced last March a ban on Russian seafood imports in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ban halted the direct importation of Russian-origin seafood, but failed to stop Russian seafood that has been further reprocessed in another country, like China, which was the subject of a recent investigation that brought unfair labour practices to light. This new Executive Order and resulting US Department of the Treasury determination, signed on December 22, 2022, will revise current guidance and close a loophole allowing Russian-harvested seafood that has been reprocessed in other countries to be imported into the United States, protecting American consumers who are seeking out high quality seafoods and care deeply about where their food comes from.

GAPP was founded to build demand for one of the most amazing seafood products on the market—once-frozen, U.S.-caught and processed Wild Alaska Pollock. When Russia lost its ability to ship seafood directly to the United States, they turned to China to import, thaw, process and refreeze their Pollock to allow it eligibility for export to the United States. GAPP’s research shows this “twice frozen” Pollock when sold as fish sticks, fillets or sandwiches is of a lower quality and results in a far less enjoyable eating experience for consumers. When consumers purchase this lower quality product in the market and have a negative experience, it has the net effect of turning consumers away from not only once-frozen, U.S.-caught Wild Alaska Pollock, but all seafood. That makes GAPP’s work to build demand for this domestic resource even more difficult.” Desautel continued.

“The bottom line is that provenance is important to U.S. consumers. That is why GAPP worked so hard with our sister trade associations years ago to ensure that if the package says “Alaska Pollock” in the United States it can only come from Alaska. This past summer, when we asked a nationwide representative sample of U.S. consumers what’s important to them in purchasing fish, over half said it’s [being] a product of the U.S. and a third said they are motivated to buy knowing it’s a product of Alaska,” said Craig Morris, GAPP CEO, noting results from GAPP’s annual consumer survey. “But the fact is that when that Russian fish is processed in China and then made into an end item like a fish sandwich here in the U.S., the consumer may not be aware of what name of the fish is much less be able to know where the fish was actually caught or if it has been twice frozen in China. The President’s Executive Order changes that and essentially gives the U.S. consumer exactly what they say they are asking for as our data shows an incredibly strong preference by U.S. consumers for fish from the U.S. and a notable dislike of fish from Russia and China. Specifically, our nationwide survey results showed 87% of consumers are likely to purchase fish from the United States and data indicates consumers actively try and avoid purchasing fish from China and Russia specifically.”

“We see that when consumers learn their fish is sourced from Russia or China, they’re more likely to feel ‘confused, misled or annoyed’, and that is a risk we can’t run with U.S. consumers who may just choose to turn their backs on the entire seafood case.” added Morris. “We are incredibly grateful that this new Executive Order as it removes this risk from the marketplace.”