Images immediately spring to mind when you hear this word. Gorgeous coastlines, expansive mountains, untouched forests—all living up to the state’s motto of “the way life should be.”
But I’ll bet most of you also think: lobsters. It’s a rightful thought.
Unfortunately, Maine’s lobster industry—and the thousands of people and small businesses who rely on it along our state’s coastline—find themselves in immediate peril. There may be no way to get lobster from the grocery or enjoy a delicious lobster roll at your favorite eatery.
Why? It is not climate change, supply chain issues, business interests or business interest. The urgent threat to our lobsters is a California-based interest group that has appointed itself judge, jury, and executioner of this iconic catch—the most valuable in the country. And here’s the truly stunning thing—it was done without any real evidence.
Last week, the California-based Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch added Maine lobster to their “red list” of seafood to avoid due to environmental impacts. The lobsterpot wires could be entangling right whales or harming them. They tried to argue their point but were unable to prove it. . Multiple national retailers pulled the product off their shelves in the following days, while others were still considering doing so.
It is clear that the decline in North Atlantic right whale population is serious and Mainers must take action. There are no need for misinformation or allegations in order to find science-based solutions.
The late Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Here are some.
It has. NeverMaine lobster industry has been responsible for a right whale die.
There hasn’t been a right whale entanglement attributed to Maine lobstering since 2004.
The majority of right whale deaths in Canada since 2017 can be attributed to ship accidents.
Recent years have witnessed a climate-driven migration in lobsters and right whales, which has largely separated them. The majority of Maine’s lobster is now caught from locations that are not in critical right whale habitat. They represent less than 3% of the total risk to the species.
That’s pretty clear and compelling context. This would make it seem that any scientific institution that is historically meticulous would consider including this information in their report.
But they don’t. Instead, Seafood Watch admits in its report that “Sometimes it’s difficult to assign an entanglement to a particular fishery because there isn’t enough information.,” and that Maine lobstermen may not be to blame for whale deaths. They decide to punish Mainers anyways, saying nobody should purchase lobster “until there is more specific information available.”
This means that the Maine lobster industry can be accused until proven innocent. These statements are conjectures wrapped up in assumptions.
Let’s be clear: when I say the Maine “lobster industry,” I’m not talking about large corporate conglomerates reaping the delicious rewards of our waters with disregard to the environmental consequences. The “industry” is actually a loose collection of roughly five thousand sole proprietors who own their own boats, set their own traps, and sell their haul to make ends meet.
For decades, these lobstermen have committed themselves to the sustainability and long-term health of our waters—because they know that one day, just like those who came before them, it will be the turn of future generations to take to these tides.
That’s why lobstermen have collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to add safeguards to protect right whales over the years. They’ve instituted gear markings, so any right whale incident can be directly attributed to the source, and added weak links to their lines, so if a large mammal comes in contact, there is a strong likelihood the lines will break and cause minimal harm. In addition, they’ve removed an estimated 30,000 miles of line from the water to reduce hazards.
Not only does the Monterey Bay Aquarium ignore these efforts, they admit in their report that “The effects of mitigation on whale entanglement remain to be discovered.” Somehow, in their backwards logic, we need conclusive, overwhelming evidence to prove Maine lobstermen innocent – but mere assertions to render them guilty.
Along with the Governor of Maine and the entire state Congressional delegation, I’m asking Seafood Watch to reverse this attack on the hardworking, conservation-minded lobster industry. Further, I’d ask them to come to the table and share any additional information they have so that we can all find a science-based balance solution that protects ocean ecosystems without hurting the livelihoods of thousands of people across Maine.
You can still enjoy Maine lobster with no guilt if you eat butter or mayo.
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