A leading seafood certification organization has withdrawn its approval from lobsters caught off the coast of Maine, with possible consequences for future sales.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MCS) suspended certification of lobster caught in the Gulf of Maine on Nov. 17. The issue is that a federal plan to regulate Gulf of Maine lobster fishing was invalidated by a court ruling in June. The plan was promulgated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, but U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that it did not provide sufficient protection for North Atlantic right whales, a species that has been officially listed as endangered since 1970.
Because no conservation plan for the right whale is officially in place, a third-party auditor used by the Marine Stewardship Council determined that it could no longer certify that whales were being adequately protected from Maine lobster fishermen. The concern is potential harm to the whales from netting and other equipment used to catch lobsters. The MSC then decertified Maine lobster.
As a result of the MSC’s action, Whole Foods announced that as of Dec. 15, it will stop purchasing lobsters caught in the Gulf of Maine. Whole Foods added that it will reconsider the action if the Maine fishing industry meets its sustainability standards.
The action was met with furious denunciation by Maine lobster fishermen, one of whom claimed on Fox News that not a single right whale has ever been proved to be killed by Maine fishing gear.
This item has been updated to more accurately reflect the regulatory situation.