The economic ripple effects of Russia’s war against Ukraine have been felt for more than a year. This includes Oregon’s seafood industry.
Before Russian forces invaded in February 2022, American exports of Pacific hake — or whiting — to Ukraine came to nearly $95 million worth of fish. But that market’s been gutted in wake of the ongoing hostilities.
“The war in Ukraine — compounded with various trade restrictions that we’ve been dealing with Russia — have just really put into jeopardy our biggest market for Pacific Hake,” said Lori Steele, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association. “Which is really the bread and butter for a lot of seafood processors here on the West Coast.”
The wartime blow comes as many seafood suppliers and processors are recuperating from the pandemic’s disruption over the last three years. Restaurants shut down or limited orders due to COVID-19 fears and restrictions.
Many in the seafood industry are hopeful that congressional support will compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase fish products for a third year.
Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are among those backing the possibility. In 2021, the USDA bought nearly $160 million in seafood and other products for food assistance programs.
Steele said she expects continued purchases to put more Pacific-region seafood into local markets.
“The USDA supplies food banks, assistance programs around the country. So they’re really viewing this as an opportunity to take some of these products that are largely exported and start introducing them to domestic customers and really growing the consumer base for some of these products here in the United States.”
Prior to the pandemic, Oregon commercial fisheries generated nearly $600 million in income for the state economy.