Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute prepares to protest Trump’s seafood tariffs

Will inform trade officials about impacts on Alaska seafood

Seafood byproducts are processed into cat food in this 2015 file photo in Juneau. Tariffs could have a significant impact on Alaska seafood being shipped to secondary processing plants in China. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Seafood byproducts are processed into cat food in this 2015 file photo in Juneau. Tariffs could have a significant impact on Alaska seafood being shipped to secondary processing plants in China. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will push back against a steep seafood tariff suggested by the Trump Administration.

In a board meeting Thursday morning, ASMI executive director Alexa Tonkovich said the organization is preparing a draft letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative about the importance of Alaska seafood.

ASMI’s action comes as the USTR considers a proposal to levy a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Since that proposal was announced in early July, the USTR has announced that the tariff could be increased to 25 percent.

Among the items on the tariff list is Alaska seafood sent to China for processing.

“We believe there is value in ASMI as an apolitical industry representative (speaking up),” Tonkovich said, and the board agreed to consider the draft.

“I know that other industry groups are kind of looking for ASMI to take the lead because of their connection with (the National Fisheries Institute) and their representation of the Alaska industry,” said board member Tom Enlow, who works for the seafood company Unisea.

“We better do it, definitely,” said board chairman Jack Schultheis of Kwik’ Pak Fisheries.

ASMI is the joint marketing arm for fisheries across Alaska and is funded by a small tax on catches as well as federal grants and state assistance. This year, the Alaska Legislature approved a budget of less than $21 million for the agency.

While ASMI normally stays away from political topics, the trade war begun by President Donald Trump has the potential to have significant impacts on Alaska’s fishing industry.

After fish are caught here, more than half head to processing plants to be headed, gutted and frozen for shipment to China. There, they are turned into fish sticks, salmon patties and other products. Those products are then re-frozen for shipment and sale back to the United States.

That makes seafood vulnerable to tariffs levied by the United States and retaliatory tariffs that may be issued by China.

On Thursday, the same day ASMI’s board of directors considered whether to intervene in the tariff process, the Wall Street Journal published a story detailing how Alaska’s seafood industry is uniquely vulnerable to the crossfire of a trade war.

More than half of Alaska’s seafood is shipped overseas for secondary processing, and seafood caught in Alaska represents 60 percent of all seafood caught in the United States.

In Alaska, the fishing industry (including processing) employs more people (and pays more wages) than mining and oil and gas extraction combined.

Tonkovich said a draft comment will be submitted to board members for their approval by the end of this week or early next week, then submitted to federal trade officials by early next month.

It will be shared with other fisheries organizations, including the National Fisheries Institute, the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Groundfish Forum and any other group that may want to offer its own comments.

“This is a little unusual, but in speaking with a lot of different industry groups, and as we start to understand the impact of these tariffs, it’s important that ASMI’s voice be heard,” Tonkovich said by phone after the meeting.

She said she doesn’t see the comment as pushback but an attempt to inform the USTR about how its actions have the potential to affect Americans.

“If you’re putting a tariff on seafood, you’re not just hurting China,” she said.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of June 26

Here’s what to expect this week.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Road to Majority conference Friday, June 17, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. A rally planned to include Trump is scheduled to happen in Anchorage on July 9.  (AP Photo / Mark Humphrey File)
Trump to rally for Palin, Dunleavy, Tshibaka in Anchorage

Former President Donald Trump plans to attend a rally in Alaska next week.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, June 30, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy 
Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday signed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Gov. Dunleavy signs budget

PFD of about $3,200, $400 million in vetoes to Legislature-approved items among declared highlights

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 29, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Alaska Department of Health And Social Services building in Juneau has no visible signs indicating the department is splitting into two agencies as of Friday. Top officials at the department said many of the changes, both physical and in services, are likely weeks and in some cases months away. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Little sign of big change for DHSS

No commissioner at new department, other Dept. of Health and Social Services changes may take months

Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, 320 W. Willoughby Ave., will be open as a cooling center through Wednesday for elders who need a cool place during the ongoing heatwave. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Tlingit and Haida opens cooling center for elders

Keep your cool during the heatwave.

An Alaska Seaplanes Cessna 208A, seen here on the tarmac, suffered damage after failing to achieve takeoff near Elfin Cove on Sunday, June 26, 2022. (Courtesy photo / Alaska Seaplanes)
No one hurt after plane’s takeoff goes awry

The aircraft failed to achieve take off and hit the beach while leaving Elfin Cove.

A 13-year-old girl was medevaced Saturday after being struck by a vehicle near the crosswalk across Egan Drive by Gold Creek. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Teen in serious condition after SUV strikes bike

Juneau Police Department is investigating.

Most Read