Maine officials blast California group for labeling lobster a whale-killing seafood

Maine officials are tearing up a recommendation from Seafood Watch, a California-based nonprofit, to try to save the whales by stopping lobster fishing.

The group argues that lobster fishing in US and Canadian waters uses vertical lines that can entangle endangered North Atlantic right whales.

“Seafood Watch has determined that current Canadian and U.S. management measures do not go far enough to mitigate entanglement risks and promote the recovery of North Atlantic right whales. As a result, Seafood Watch has assigned a red rating to fisheries using pots, traps and gillnets,” the organization recently announced.

The “Red List” designation means that the non-profit organization, a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, recommends that the species cease to be fished in a designated fishing area.

Seafood Watch has designated all fisheries in Canada and the United States where lobster is caught as to be avoided by restaurants and distributors who adhere to Seafood Watch’s recommendations.

According to Oceana, entities that have pledged to follow Seafood Watch’s recommendations include Whole Foods, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Cheesecake Factory, Compass Group and ARAMARK.

A letter from the Maine congressional delegation and Governor Janet Mills says the group’s designation on the “Red List” for American lobster is “a reckless act of activism that will inflict substantial negative real-world consequences on an important and iconic Maine industry…you seek to condemn Maine lobsters with guesswork, guesswork, and conjecture instead of hard facts.

Maine’s lobster fishery, in addition to being a central part of the state’s economy, is the most valuable fishery in the United States.

Maine leaders, including two U.S. senators, members of Congress and Governor Janet Mills, wrote in a letter to Seafood Watch that the entanglement deaths of North Atlantic right whales have little to do with it. with the activities of the Maine lobster boats.

“There have been no right whale entanglements with Maine lobster gear since 2004, and no deaths or serious injuries of right whales have ever been attributed to Maine lobster gear,” explains the States letter.

They concluded that Seafood Watch’s “Red List” designation was not factual, seeking a blanket ban on lobster fishing in the area due to unattributed right whale entanglements.

“You have appointed yourself judge, jury and executioner of Maine’s lobster industry – ignoring clear facts and failing to meet even the most basic burden of proof before reaching a conclusion. Your report repeatedly admits that there is no hard evidence to support your assertion and admits that Maine lobster is ‘redlisted’ and not on a factual basis,” the letter states.

Seafood Watch’s case for saving the more than 300 extant North Atlantic right whales rests on three statistics.

The group explains that “the United States and Canadian fisheries, combined, deploy up to 1 million vertical lines on the migratory routes, calving and feeding grounds of North Atlantic right whales”, that “over 80% of North Atlantic right whales have been entangled in fishing gear. at least once” and that “over 90% of entanglements cannot be linked to a specific type of gear, and only 12% of entanglements can be linked to a specific location”.

The Maine lobster industry also speaks out against the Seafood Watch designation.

“They’ve increased the number of regulatory changes and shifts and additional restrictions over the last 20 years. Having lobster on Seafood Watch’s red list is incredibly frustrating and inaccurate,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealer’s Association, to the Bangor Daily News.

Baxter Key, co-owner of The Highroller Lobster Co. restaurant in Portland, Maine, told the Portland Press Herald that “the majority of entanglements have happened further north in Canada, where the laws are different, so it looks like we let’s already be quite proactive in preserving them in my opinion. Obviously, I don’t want right whales to be harmed or extinct, as they are a vital part of our ecosystem, but I think there is a balance to be struck.

Other marine life nonprofits have called on the government to update their regulations on what gear fisheries are allowed to use.

“Fisheries and whales can thrive if the National Marine Fisheries Service takes immediate action and creates effective measures for these whales…Fisheries managers must strengthen protections to save North Atlantic right whales so that seafood retailers, consumers and restaurants can put American lobster and crab back on the menu,” Oceana campaign manager Gib Brogan said in a statement.

About Jessica J. Bass

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