Huge Economic Impact of Illegally-Caught Russian Crab Revealed

A report recently released by Frequentz and the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers reveals that an estimated USD 600 million has been lost in US tax revenue and commercial fishing profits since 2000 as a result of competition with illegal Russian crab entering the US market.

The document highlights the importance of the Bering Sea Alaskan king crab fishery to the US economy: in 2013 US landings of king crab were more than 15.4 million pounds valued at over USD 82.9 million (National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries of the US 2013).

And it explains that in addition to the significant economic impact and threat to the livelihoods of small, independently owned family businesses, consumers are being duped by illegally harvested crab entering the global supply chain, often under the pretense of being sustainably sourced.

The authors cite the seafood traceability requirements and track and trace solutions as being instrumental in battling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“Because Russian crab imports are not subject to mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, the consumer often has no way of knowing whether they are buying Alaskan crab or Russian pirate crab,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director, Alaskan Bering Sea Crabbers.

“This supply chain ambiguity hurts the American consumer, the American crab fishermen, and the Russian people whose crab is being stolen out from under them. The only beneficiaries are Russian pirates, international criminal conspiracies, and unscrupulous middlemen who take advantage of the lack of supply chain integrity,” Gleason added,

over 40 per cent of king crab sold in world markets during 2013 were from illegal harvests from Russian waters, contributing to a USD 2.73/pound decrease, or nearly 25 per cent, in prices fishermen earned for their catch. Alaskan coastal communities have also lost millions more in tax revenue.

Many of the causes of this problem, such as unlicensed pirate fishers poaching in Russian waters and Russian fishermen exceeding their allowable catches, occur in Russia and other Pacific Rim trade countries.
To combat this worldwide problem, Gleason pointed out: “We need the Russians to do a better job enforcing their own laws. We need improved international ocean governance. And we need a strong regulatory backstop in the US to prevent any illicit product from entering the US supply chain if it somehow otherwise falls through the cracks.”

Frequentz Inc. says it sponsored the white paper as part of their ongoing efforts to help tackle global issues related to seafood traceability.