The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has added more than a dozen fisheries, including the US American lobster fishery, to its “Red List” of seafood to avoid because they currently pose risks to the survival of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Seafood Watch provides recommendations for seafood buyers based on sustainability criteria. The “Red List” recommends that businesses and consumers avoid purchasing certain seafood because they’re caught or farmed in ways that have a high risk of harming wildlife or the environment.
More than 25,000 restaurants, stores, and distributors — including Whole Foods, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Cheesecake Factory, Compass Group, and ARAMARK — have committed to using Seafood Watch ratings to guide purchasing and menu choices and to avoid red-listed seafood.
Other fisheries added to the “Red List” include the Jonah crab fishery and other trap, pot and gillnet fisheries.
Only around 330 North Atlantic right whales remain, including an estimated 80 breeding females, according to scientists. Entanglement in fishing gear used to catch lobster, crab and other species is one of two leading threats to these whales.
Ocean advocacy organization Oceana is calling on the US federal government to implement stronger measures to protect North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear entanglements in US waters. The Seafood Watch red listing resulted from a lack of government action and need for stronger safeguards for North Atlantic right whales, according to Oceana.
In a statement, Oceana campaign director Gib Brogan said:
“It’s unfortunate that the government’s failure to update the safeguards to protect North Atlantic right whales is having such serious consequences on these fisheries. Both fisheries and whales can thrive if the National Marine Fisheries Service takes immediate action and creates effective measures for these whales. Ordering lobster or crab should not mean jeopardizing the future of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales — the National Marine Fisheries Service has delayed stronger protections for long enough. It’s time to update the rules. Every vertical fishing line and gillnet is a threat to the remaining North Atlantic right whales, which face the risk of entanglements every day. To give this species a fighting chance, the agency must reduce the number of vertical lines and gillnets in the water and transition the fishery to whale-safe fishing gear. Fishery managers must increase protections to save North Atlantic right whales so seafood retailers, consumers, and restaurants can put American lobster and crab back on the menu.”
Check out the new and updated Seafood Watch ratings.