Businesses Stop Selling Lobster Because of Whale Concerns

    15 September 2022

    Some American businesses have stopped selling lobster because of concerns that fishing methods could harm endangered whales. Several food companies announced they had removed lobster offerings to the public.

    The removals came after a conservation group said it had added the American and Canadian lobster fisheries to its "red list." It is a list of species to avoid when buying seafood. The organization that makes the list is called Seafood Watch. It is based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in northern California.

    Seafood Watch said in a new report that the fishing industry is a danger to North Atlantic right whales. The whales can suffer injury or death when they become trapped in equipment that connects lobster traps to the ocean floor.

    Lobster fishermen are already at work as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, off of Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Phot6o/Robert F. Bukaty)
    Lobster fishermen are already at work as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, off of Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Phot6o/Robert F. Bukaty)

    The organization's report said that "current management measures do not go far enough" to prevent such risks and to support efforts to save the whale species.

    Thousands of businesses use Seafood Watch's guidelines to make buying decisions. Many have already promised to avoid any products that appear on the red list. A spokesperson for Blue Apron, a New York-based food seller, said the company had already stopped offering a seasonal lobster box before the report came out. The company said all the seafood it currently uses follows Seafood Watch's guidelines.

    German meal kit seller HelloFresh also promised shortly after the announcement to stop selling lobster. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company is committed to following the Seafood Watch guidelines.

    Seafood Watch rates more than 2,000 seafood products as "best choice," "good alternative" and "avoid." The ratings are based on how sustainably the products are harvested or fished.

    The organization's guidelines have been influential in the past. It red-listed shrimp fishing operations in the southern state of Louisiana. That action led to increased conservation efforts to better protect sea turtles. The fishery was later removed from the red list.

    The lobster fishing industry has been under pressure from Seafood Watch in recent years because of the threat of entanglement in fishing equipment. Experts say there are fewer than 340 North Atlantic right whales. Entanglement is one of the two biggest threats they face, scientists and conservation groups say. Another threat is the danger of crashes with ships.

    The population of the giant animals was greatly harmed by intensive whaling generations ago. Whale numbers have also decreased in recent years.

    Members of the lobster fishing industry disagreed with the Seafood Watch rating. The director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, Patrice McCarron, told The Associated Press that no interaction between the lobster industry and right whales had been recorded in the northeastern state in nearly 20 years.

    "Lobster is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world due to the effective stewardship practices handed down through generations of lobstermen," McCarron said. She added that this has included strong protections "for both the lobster resource and right whales."

    American and Canadian lobster fishermen target the same species, the American lobster. This species is popular as live seafood and is also used in processed products such as lobster rolls and lobster ravioli.

    A large majority of the world's American lobster is harvested in New England and eastern Canada. The sea creatures are important parts of the economy and the cultural history of those areas.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.

    Words in This Story

    conservation – n. the protection of animals, plants, and natural resources

    species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants

    manage – v. to do something or deal with something successfully

    kit –n. a group of parts that can be put together to make something

    alternative – n. one of two or more things that you can choose between

    sustainable – adj. involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources

    entangle – v. cause to become twisted together

    stewardship – n. the way in which a person controls or organizes something