When you hear the word, images immediately pop into your mind. Magnificent coastlines, vast mountains, untouched forests all live up to the state’s motto “the way life should be”.
But I bet most of you are also thinking: lobsters. And rightfully so.
Unfortunately, Maine’s lobster industry—and the thousands of people and small businesses that rely on it along our state’s coast—is in imminent danger. You may no longer be able to buy lobster at the grocery store or get a delicious lobster roll at your favorite restaurant.
Why? Not climate change, business interests or supply chains. The pressing threat to our lobsters is a California-based interest group that has appointed itself judge, jury and executioner of this iconic catch—the nation’s most valuable. And here’s the really stunning thing – it was done without any real evidence.
Last week California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch seafood added Maine lobster to their “red list” of seafood to avoid due to environmental impact. Trying to make their case, they presented baseless threats that common whales become entangled or injured by the wires of lobster pots. . In the days since, numerous national retailers have pulled the product from their shelves, and others have pushed back.
Make no mistake, the declining population of North Atlantic right whales is a serious problem, and one that Mainers agrees requires action. What it doesn’t need is accusations and misinformation instead of science-based solutions.
The late Senator Patrick Moynihan said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Here are a few.
There is never is a fin whale death attributed to Maine’s lobster farming industry.
There were no right whale entanglements attributed to Maine lobster catches since 2004.
Since 2017the majority of reported deaths of right whales are due to ship strikes in Canadian waters.
In fact, recent years have seen a climate-induced migration both from lobster and make whales which has largely separated the two populations. At this time, the vast majority of lobsters caught in Maine come from outside critical right whale habitat and represent less than three percent of the total risk to the species.
It’s a pretty clear and compelling context. You would think that a scholarly organization oriented to historical detail would include it in their report or have substantial evidence that goes beyond these realities.
But they don’t. Instead, Seafood Watch allows your report that “due to lack of information it is often not possible to attribute entanglements to a specific fishery,” and that Maine lobsters may not be to blame for the whale deaths. They still decide to punish Mainers by saying no one should buy lobster.”until more specific information is available.’
In other words, the Maine lobster industry is guilty until proven innocent. These statements are assumptions wrapped within assumptions within assumptions.
Let’s be clear: When I say Maine’s “lobster industry,” I’m not talking about large corporate conglomerates reaping the tasty rewards from our waters with no regard for the environmental consequences. “Industry” is actually a loose collection of approximately five thousand sole traders who own their own boats set their own traps and sell their catch to make ends meet.
For decades, these lobstermen have been committed to the sustainability and long-term health of our waters—because they know that one day, just like those before them, it will be the turn of future generations to take to these tides .
That’s why lobstermen are partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to add precautions to protect right whales over the years. They introduced equipment markings so that any incident with a smooth whale could be directly attributed to the source, and added weak links to their lines so that if a large mammal made contact, there was a good chance that the lines would break and cause minimal damage . Also, they removed them approximately 30,000 miles line from the water to reduce hazards.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium isn’t just ignoring those efforts, they admit their report that “the mitigation effects of whale entanglement have yet to be determined.” Somehow, according to their reverse logic, we need compelling, compelling evidence to prove that Maine lobstermen are innocent—but only allegations to find them guilty.
Along with the Governor of Maine and the entire state congressional delegation, I am asking Seafood Watch to reverse this attack on the hard-working, conservation-minded lobster industry. I would also ask them to come to the table and share any additional information they have so that we can all find a science-based balanced solution that protects ocean ecosystems without harming the livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.
In the meantime, for the millions around the world who enjoy Maine lobster, rest assured that you can continue eating the delicious crustacean with your only guilt being that of all the butter (or mayo) you just consumed.
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