US House and Senate lawmakers from Maine — as well as the state’s governor — this week criticized the Marine Stewardship Council’s decision to temporarily suspend their certification of Maine’s lobster fishery.
In its decision, MSC acknowledges that while the Maine fishery meets standards for sustainability and environmental impact and is unlikely to cause harm to right whales, it’s unable to certify any fishery that is not in compliance with federal regulations – a standard MSC believes the fishery does not meet due to ongoing litigation.
Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden as well as Governor Janet Mills this week said the decision “is the result of a years-long campaign from misguided environmentalist groups who seem to be hellbent on putting a proud, sustainable industry out of business without regard to the consequences of their actions.”
They further added:
“We are deeply disappointed by this action, and hope that the MSC will reconsider the decision as litigation is ongoing in the matter. Any companies purchasing Maine lobster, or people deciding to enjoy a lobster roll, should view MSC’s decision purely as a result of a continuing legal process that is no fault of the fishery or lobstermen. MSC’s own independent review found the industry to be operating sustainably. In the meantime, we will continue doing everything in our power to support the iconic Maine industry and ensure that they have the resources they need to continue complying with any federal regulations.”
Marine Stewardship Council Regional Director Erika Feller told The Washington Post:
“We’re hopeful and look for the opportunity to work with the fishery and others to figure out how to help them move forward. Hopefully, the fishery can regain certification.”
The council’s decision comes a month after Seafood Watch red-listed lobsters caught off Maine’s shores due to risks to North Atlantic right whales.
Gib Brogan, who leads Oceana’s conservation and protection efforts for the North Atlantic right whale, approved of the council’s decision:
“Suspension of the MSC certification is appropriate given that the lobster fishery is not upholding the required principles of sustainability or the law. Fisheries in the U.S. Atlantic, including the lobster fishery, have serious management problems. These fisheries are taking place in seasonal hotspots where North Atlantic right whales are known to be found, and they are using excessive gear, which creates an unacceptable, illegal risk of entanglement. Every rope in whale habitat poses a risk to the species. These fisheries need management attention immediately. Until the government puts proven, effective safeguards from entanglement on the water and fully complies with the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, this fishery and North Atlantic right whales are both at risk. Currently, the catch from these fisheries cannot be considered sustainable under any definition of the word.”