Defamation of crustaceans? Maine lobster fishermen are suing the aquarium on the do-not-eat list.

Related posts


A group of lobster fishermen head to court in hopes of resolving an issue they believe has endangered their American market: lobster libel.

Months after a California aquarium and conservation group recommended that seafood consumers avoid buying and eating American lobster, Maine industry groups argue that lobster, which is primarily harvested in that State, should not have been boycotted.

A coalition of organizations, including the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, filed a libel suit Monday against the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation after placing American lobster, a species found on the Atlantic coast that makes up most of of the American market. , on its “red list” of seafood products for consumers to avoid in September.

Seafood Watch, the conservation group operated by the aquarium, made the decision due to the threat posed to right whales by entanglement in fishing gear used to harvest lobster. There are only about 340 right whales left in the North Atlantic.

In the lawsuit, the groups allege that portraying Maine’s lobster industry as a threat to whales is false and defamatory. The “red list” distinction caused stores like Whole Foods and restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory to no longer sell Maine-caught lobster, according to the lawsuit. In addition to the aquarium’s “red list” designation, the Marine Stewardship Council, a leading seafood guide, also suspended Maine’s lobster industry’s sustainability certification due to concerns for whales.

The 37-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Maine asks the aquarium to remove “all defamatory statements regarding Maine’s lobster industry and its fishing practices,” along with unspecified damages covering “the value of all the cases plaintiffs have lost”. or will lose in the future.

“This is an important lawsuit that will help eradicate the damage done by people who have no idea how lobsters care to protect the ecosystem and the ocean,” John Petersdorf, CEO of Bean Maine Lobster Inc., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Lobsters are very responsible stewards of the ocean. We cannot sit back and let contrary lies prevail.

Kevin Lipson, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told the Washington Post that lobster “essentially defines the state of Maine,” and the lawsuit argues that bad science is behind the “red list” classification.

“The impact of this not only alters the economic consequences for lobsters and their communities, but it is devastating for the state,” Lipson said. “It’s a tradition that has existed in Maine for generations and is worth fighting for.”

A spokesperson for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation dismissed the lawsuit and the lobster fisher organizations’ claims in a statement to the Post.

“These baseless lawsuits ignore the overwhelming evidence that these fisheries pose a serious risk to the survival of the endangered North Atlantic right whale, and they seek to curtail the First Amendment rights of a beloved institution. that educates the public on the importance of a healthy ocean,” the group said.

Want to save the whales? Reconsider lobster, some say.

Lobster has been a Maine attraction for decades. The state is home to most of the country’s supply of chic shellfish. In 2022, approximately 98 million pounds of lobster were brought to US docks, down from over 200 million pounds in 2021, but still a historic high. The roughly 98 million pounds was worth around $389 million.

Seaweed helps Maine lobsters weather the storm of climate change

But Maine’s lobster industry has faced questions in the months since the California Aquarium advised people not to buy or eat American lobster caught in the United States or Canada, in the labeling “Avoid”.

“They are overfished, lack sound management, or are caught or farmed in ways that harm marine life or the environment,” Seafood Watch explains on its website. Instead, the aquarium recommends that consumers find alternatives such as California lobster caught in California, Caribbean lobster caught in Florida, Caribbean lobster caught by divers in waters south of Quintana Roo in Mexico and Norway lobster caught with UK traps or bottom trawls. In France.

Right whales, which weigh up to 140,000 pounds and are found in New England and parts of the mid-Atlantic, face several pressures, including collisions with boats and a warming ocean. But entanglements in fishing gear remain a leading cause of death, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. A federal judge also ruled in July that the US government had not done enough to protect the whales from harm or death from entanglements.

The classification of Seafood Watch and the suspension of the Marine Stewardship Council sparked a flurry of letters and laws last year from Maine’s congressional delegation defending the famous fishery. Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the state have insisted there is no evidence that lobster is driving right whales to extinction.

Environmental journalist Dino Grandoni explains how climate change threatens right whale species. (Video: Dino Grandoni, Casey Silvestri/The Washington Post)

“In a court of law for a criminal case, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucus with Democrats, told The Washington Post in December. “In a civil case, it’s a preponderance of the evidence. In this case, it is not proof. It’s guesswork. And that’s what really bothers me.

Maine lobster loses ‘sustainable’ label as 2 seafood guides warn it

Maine lobster fishermen have also pushed back against the idea that eating the shellfish is bad for whales, arguing that no data exists to show Maine lobster ropes injured or killed a right whale by entanglement in close quarters. two decades. (The last known whale to become entangled in a Maine lobster rope was in 2004.) Among them is Gerry Cushman, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the aquarium who described himself as a sixth-generation fisherman.

“Like my fellow lobsters, I will continue to do all I can to protect the ocean and its wildlife, just as my ancestors did,” Cushman said in a statement. “Our stewardship practice is a tradition that defines Maine. The barrage of lies about Maine’s fishing practices must be confronted and defeated with the truth.

Dino Grandoni contributed to this report.

Related Posts

Next Post