NOAA counters Sweden’s claims of American lobster as invasive species

Published on
June 7, 2016

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has collaborated with scientists from Canada to rebut claims made by the government of Sweden arguing that the European Union should consider the American lobster an invasive species.

Steven Wilson, deputy director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, said the United States and Canada were working together to prevent the issue from appearing on the agenda of the European Commission’s environmental committee, which meets 20 June. If they are unsuccessful, the European Union could move forward with a vote to ban the import of live American lobsters, a market valued at more than USD 200 million (EUR 176 million) annually.

“The Swedish risk assessment finds there is a high risk of the Homarus americanus reproducing and overwhelming the native Homarus gammarus in E.U. waters, with a major massive ecological and economic impact. The initial findings suggest that these conclusions are not supported by best available science,” Wilson said. “Even though there is a little bit of evidence in the Swedish risk assessment that there has been some hybridization of the two species, there isn’t enough at all to suggest that this is invasive by international standards.”

NOAA and the Office of the United States Trade Representative, along with their Canadian counterparts, penned a letter to the European Commission scheduled to be delivered Tuesday, 7 June. Wilson said the letter states U.S. and Canadian opposition to hearings on labeling the American lobster an invasive species “on both scientific and economic grounds.”

Fewer than 100 American lobsters have been discovered in European waters, which Wilson said “is nothing, when it gets down to it.” Wilson said he wasn’t sure what total would qualify the American lobster as an invasive species scientifically “but this is so far below the mark.”

Wilson also said the information supplied by Sweden in its risk assessment is inadequate as the basis for such a momentous decision.

“It is the collective position of Canada and the United States that for the Swedish risk assessment to be fully evaluated, complete information about the risk assessment model and methodology used, including supporting documentation is required. The Swedish did give us a little information as to how they arrived at their conclusions but they didn’t give the full picture, so in our opinion it was very difficult to support their claims without the methodology that they used,” he said.

Wilson said the United States is aware that not all E.U. member states agree with the proposal, but its strategy is to prevent the measure from even coming up for discussion by the European Commission’s environment committee.

“We don’t even want to have the discussion if in fact there shouldn’t be a discussion scientifically. That way we don’t have to worry about as a ticking clock in order to stop the process,” Wilson said. “There are still some points once it gets on the agenda in the process that we can address the issue but it becomes more political after that.”

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