Chinese tariffs worry Alaskan seafood distributors

Published: Jun. 15, 2018 at 10:29 PM AKDT
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Alaska's seafood distributors are still trying to assess the potential impacts of Chinese tariffs on US seafood exports, but they are worried, and they're watching the situation closely.

On a recent 12-day trade mission to China, Governor Walker and Alaskan companies intended to improve trade relationships.

But, local businesses say China's tariffs on Alaskan seafood exports threaten to capsize the boat of progress.

"We're definitely concerned as to the impact it will have on Alaska's salmon resources," Copper River Seafoods Chief Development Officer Martin Weiser said.

Weiser says China's seafood tariffs come unexpectedly, and feels the Alaska seafood industry has lost its voice.

"The one thing we do know is we don't have a lot of control in what the administration does regarding the export of seafood,” Weiser said. “But certainly, it's their strategy within their administration to get done with China what they're trying to do. We have very little impact on it."

Remembering the toll Russia's 2014 ban on us fish exports had on Alaskan pink salmon roe sales, Weisner looks to the future of exporting fish to China cautiously.

"We can look back and see what's happened with Russia and the Ukraine and our seafood sales. These tariffs with China will be similar,” Weiser said. “It's challenging. It's very frustrating. "

A McDowell Group report with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute shows Russia imported $46.6 million worth of salmon roe products in 2013. By 2015, Alaskan salmon roe exports to Russia disappeared entirely.

"So, now with China being a large consumer of Alaskan seafood, and us having this tariff imposed… we're probably going to export a lot less seafood to China. It's unfortunate," Weiser said.

Governor Walker released a statement Friday saying he will continue working with government leadership on both sides to ensure that Alaska's interests are protected.