Seafood Watch debacle harms Maine lobster fishery, but retailers continue to sell

A Maine lobsterman with his catch.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s red-listing of Maine’s lobster fishery over what it described as its endangerment of North American right whales has not resulted in a widescale reaction from the U.S. foodservice or retails sectors.

Reports that Blue Apron and Hello Fresh had stopped carrying Maine lobster emerged in the days following the decision. However, a Blue Apron spokesperson told the Portland Press Herald that it had already ceased carrying Maine lobster prior to the Seafood Watch decision.

Soon after the decision, J. Oyster restaurant in Portland, Maine, U.S.A. posted an article on its Facebook page about Whole Foods Market not carrying any live lobster in its stores, which was incorrect.

“We realized early on that the Whole Foods article that was circulating was an older story. We decided to leave the post up because it generated discussion about the lobster industry today. Whole Foods will not carry live lobsters in any stores except the Portland, Maine store. They don’t have any right now,” the restaurant company said in a 12 September Facebook post.

“Maybe this will make Whole Foods start carrying lobsters in all their stores,” the company added.

However, a Whole Foods spokesperson told SeafoodSource that “at this time, we will continue to sell American lobster from fisheries that are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). This includes the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery, which is currently MSC-certified.”

Blue Apron did not respond to a request for comment from SeafoodSource.

Meanwhile, Maine Governor Janet Mills, who called the decision “flat out wrong,” is urging U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to “provide the time and tools necessary for Maine’s lobster industry to make meaningful contributions during the next phase of rulemaking to protect right whales,” Mills’ office said in a press release.

Mills’ letter follows recent decisions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that “will hinder the ability of Maine’s lobster industry to provide critical feedback, likely harming the industry and the coastal communities that rely on it,” the governor’s office said.

NOAA recently announced a scoping period to seek stakeholder input on measures to reduce risk to right whales that will provide only one opportunity via webinar for public comment.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has also organized a petition to combat the decision.

“For more than 150 years, the Maine Lobster industry has worked tirelessly to preserve the Maine Lobster species and protect the marine environment including the North Atlantic right whale,” MLMC wrote. "The recent decision by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to move Maine Lobster to its ‘Red list’ of seafoods to avoid is not supported by the facts. It is counterproductive to decades of proactive efforts made by the fishery to ensure the protection of right whales, including new regulations that are still in the process of being implemented.”

Photo courtesy of Rabbitti/Shutterstock


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