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Tariffs force Alaska seafood industry to look beyond China

Great Pacific Seafoods workers unload chum salmon from a skiff as another skiff waits in the background on the beach in Kotzebue in 2014. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

KODIAK — Chinese tariffs are forcing Alaska’s seafood industry to look for markets beyond the Asian giant, according to an industry marketing organization.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is exploring how to expand the state’s seafood brand in response to a 25 percent tariff on Pacific Northwest seafood imposed by China in summer 2018, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Wednesday.

Alaska's seafood sales are off by more than 20 percent so far this year and could take a big hit in China, said Jeremy Woodrow, the institute's interim executive director.

"Because of the conflict, it makes our product less competitive in that marketplace," Woodrow said.

A $5.5 million, three-year federal agricultural trade promotion grant awarded in January will be used to develop nontraditional markets such as Japan, Southeast Asia and parts of South America, according to Woodrow. The funds will also aid continued marketing in China and other established markets such as Germany, he said.

In a survey of Alaska seafood businesses, 65 percent reported they immediately lost sales due to the tariff increase, 50 percent had sales delays, and 36 percent lost Chinese customers, Woodrow said.

China is the largest export market and reprocessor of Alaskan seafood, according to the institute.

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