Though the Maine lobster and seafood industries for the most part do not trade directly with Russia, they are anticipating indirect impacts from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia had already banned seafood imports from the United States and European Union in 2014 in retaliation for previous sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion and annexation of Crimea, and that ban remains in effect. Still, the invasion is bound to exacerbate ongoing supply chain issues, inflation and high energy prices, which could hurt the seafood industry indirectly in Maine.

Richard Hall, caviar director at Browne Trading Company in Portland, said he has not imported or exported any products from Russia in over 10 years because of the political situation and on-and-off embargoes.

“I get solicited by caviar farms in the (former) Soviet Union almost weekly, “Hall said. “It’s not like we don’t want to work with Russian farms. We’re always interested in finding what’s great for our customers. And it’s sort of sad – I’ve had to tell them recently, keep me on your list of people, but we’re not going to be doing anything with you right now.”


In 2013, one year after Russia joined the World Trade Organization and a year before the seafood ban took effect, total U.S. lobster exports to Russia peaked at 111 metric tons, with a value of $2.3 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau international trade data. It is unclear how much, if any, of that came from Maine.


Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, said no lobster is currently exported to Russia, and only a small amount of Maine lobster is exported to Ukraine. The total exported from the U.S. to Ukraine in 2021 was 47 metric tons valued at $866,117, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Annie Tselikis, executive director of Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, said that while lobster wholesalers cannot directly export to Russia, live Maine lobsters do enter the Russian market. Still, it is impossible to know the value of that trade because it is conducted by a third party, she said.

“In order for Russia to import Maine lobster, they would do so … by purchasing from another seafood wholesaler, typically in Europe or Dubai,” Tselikis said. “That importer would receive the product and trans-ship it either over the road or via airfreight. That trans-shipping business is a specialized trade, and most of our exports to Europe and Dubai (and the Middle East in general) do stay in-market rather than shipping to a further destination.”

Tselikis said a bigger impact would be felt in the U.S. and global crab and whitefish markets.

“Russia lands a lot of pollock, cod and crab,” she said.

In 2021, the U.S. imported $1.2 billion in seafood from Russia, of which more than $900 million was snow crab and red king crab. Over the same period, Russia imported only $10 million in fishery products from the U.S., of which $9.6 million was inedible fish oil, according to NOAA data, while seaweed and sea cucumbers were the only edible seafood imported.


Alaska Republican U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have introduced a bill that would ban Russian seafood imports to correct this imbalance because the cheap Russian crab undercuts the local crab industry in Alaska. The United States-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act of 2022 would ban the import of Russian seafood and seafood merchandise. Alaska Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young introduced a similar bill in response to the invasion.

Similar sanctions may be passed by European countries, where Russia supplies 19 percent of pollock imports and 17 percent of cod imports directly, according to the European Fish Processors and Traders Association, and indirectly, as a lot of Russian whitefish is processed in China before being sold in the EU.

Finn Arne Egeness, senior whitefish analyst at Nordea Markets, told the seafood industry publication IntraFish that if the EU goes this route, it would be a “big game-changer in the short run,” resulting in a lack of available product and “major price increases.”


The U.S. is a major supplier of whitefish to the EU (supplying 435,000 tons of whitefish and 44 percent of EU pollock imports) and may have the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in the event of Russian seafood bans. However, Ben Martens of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association said that right now, Maine seafood is not currently established in European markets.

“For a lot of the (non-lobster) seafood that we catch in Maine like scallops or groundfish species like cod, haddock, flounder, pollock, hake, monkfish, the markets are not usually in that European bloc,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean disruptions to the supply chain won’t cause problems.”


Martens anticipates that the supply chain issues, and the economic stresses of inflation and high energy prices exacerbated by the conflict may reduce demand for Maine seafood.

“If this type of event causes financial problems in the United States, or major concerns, seafood is more of a celebratory food in a lot of people’s minds – people eat seafood when things are good, and so I think that with the additional stress … we default into certain types of eating, there do seem to be trends like that.” he said. “But for what we catch in Maine, there’s less concern about market disruption and more concern about what kind of impacts will happen in other parts of the business or the economy.”

Eben Jose, vice president and chartered financial analyst at Portland financial planning firm Spinnaker Trust, says similar indirect impacts – prolonged inflation and market uncertainty, and lower consumer spending – can be expected by businesses across industry sectors in Maine.

Russia is a commodities-based market, he said, exporting oil and natural gas primarily, as well as soft commodities such as wheat. Maine and the U.S. as a whole are not directly trading with Russia in those markets – neither Russia nor Ukraine is among the top 25 importers or exporters that make up 93 percent of Maine’s international trade, according to U.S. Census data. But impacts on global markets will affect European demand for U.S. natural gas, for example, and could result in prolonged high energy prices.

“If energy stays high, that’s likely to keep soft commodities, like wheat and corn, elevated, too, and consumers are going to have to end up paying more for their food and their energy, which is probably going to have a negative effect on consumer spending,” Jose said.

Though consumers are generally in good shape with a cushion in savings from government stimulus to absorb some of the price increases, he said, that could get drawn down depending on how long energy and food prices stay high.

“Then, with prices being where they are, they’re still elevated, that would kind of destroy some of the demand that’s out there and, in effect, cause prices to come down over time,” Jose said. “But I think the broad statement is that it’s definitely not great for inflation, which is what everybody had their eye on coming into the year and what has continued to be quite high relative to historical levels.”

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