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Oregon's seafood industry feels economic hit from Russia's continued war against Ukraine

 Pacific Hake
NOAA Fisheries West Coast
Pacific Hake

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 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 Senators 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 to the state economy.

Copyright 2023 KLCC. To see more, visit KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. He is a 20-year reporter who has worked at NPR, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award in 2012.