Some retailers are taking lobster off the menu after an assessment from an influential conservation group that the seafood poses too much of a risk to rare whales and should be avoided. Whales can suffer injuries and even fatalities when they become entangled in the gear that connects to lobster traps on the ocean floor. Seafood Watch, which rates the sustainability of different seafoods, said this week it has added the American and Canadian lobster fisheries to its "red list" of species to avoid, the AP reports.
The organization, based at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, said in a report that the fishing industry is a danger to North Atlantic right whales because "current management measures do not go far enough to mitigate entanglement risks and promote recovery of the species." Thousands of businesses use Seafood Watch's recommendations to inform seafood buying decisions, and many have pledged to avoid any items that appear on the red list. A spokesperson for Blue Apron, the New York meal kit retailer, said after the release of the report that the company no longer offers lobster. HelloFresh, the Germany-based meal kit company that is the largest such company operating in the US, also pledged to stop selling lobster.
The lobster fishing industry has come under the organization's scrutiny because of the threat of entanglement in fishing gear. The North Atlantic right whales number fewer than 340, and entanglement is one of the two biggest threats they face, along with collisions with ships, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other groups have said. The population of the giant animals, decimated during the commercial whaling era generations ago, has fallen in recent years.
The lobster fishing industry pushed back against the Seafood Watch rating. "Lobster is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world due to the effective stewardship practices handed down through generations of lobstermen. These include strict protections for both the lobster resource and right whales," said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association. (Read more whales stories.)