Maine Lobstermen vs sue Monterey aquarium: Battle of the Seafood Giants

ME, PORTLAND — An aquarium on the other side of the country is being sued by a coalition representing the Maine lobster industry for advising seafood buyers to stay away from a variety of lobster that is mostly harvested in their state.

Industry organizations, including the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, are suing the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California for defamation, contending that its Seafood Watch conservation program’s “red list” shouldn’t include their prized harvest. The case was filed on Monday.

Due to the risk of rare whales becoming entangled in the fishing gear used to collect American lobster, the species that accounts for the majority of the U.S. lobster market, Seafood Watch placed lobster from the U.S. and Canada on its list of seafood to avoid last year.

There are only around 340 right whales in North America that are endangered, and their numbers have been dropping recently. But the lobster business is claiming before the U.S. District Court in Maine that the aquarium’s advice is based on flawed evidence and misrepresents lobster fishing as a danger to whales.

According to court documents, the lawsuit requests that the aquarium be ordered to take down “defamatory comments” from its website and other materials.

sue Monterey aquarium

“This is a significant lawsuit that will help eradicate the damage done by folks who have no clue about the care taken by lobstermen to protect the ecosystem and the ocean,” said John Petersdorf, chief executive officer of Bean Maine Lobster Inc., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, in a statement.

The aquarium says its recommendations are correct based on the best available evidence. It says right whales are indeed vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear.

The lawsuit ignores “the extensive 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 about the importance of a healthy ocean,” said Kevin Connor, a spokesperson for the aquarium.

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Due to worries about harm to whales, another organization, the Marine Stewardship Council, this year suspended a sustainability certification it had given to the lobster sector in Maine. Some retailers have stopped selling lobster as a result of the loss of sustainability recommendations.

Maine is the primary hub for the American lobster industry. Last year, the sector delivered 98 million pounds of lobster to the ports. Although it was less than the year before, that amount was still considered by historical standards.

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