Eating Maine lobster continues to come with many environmental questions.
After it was announced that climate change was affecting lobsters in the Gulf of Maine, the crustaceans have lost their “sustainable” label, according to a new report from The Washington Post. The Marine Stewardship Council said it no longer considers Maine lobster sustainable because nearly extinct whales continue to die after getting caught in fishing gear.
“We’re hopeful and look for the opportunity to work with the fishery and others to figure out how to help them move forward,” Erika Feller, a regional director of the council, told The Washington Post. “Hopefully, the fishery can regain certification.”
The current issue pertains to right whales in the North Atlantic, whose current numbers run only about 340. While these whales are also affected by climate change and boat collisions, the National Marine Fisheries Service says that entanglements in fishing gear are a leading cause of death. Because of that, the Marine Stewardship Council—which reviews fisheries to determine whether they’re well managed and unharmful to other species and ocean habitats—has downgraded Maine lobster.
Maine’s lobstermen, however, maintain that they work to reduce the possibility of entanglements and that they comply with conservation laws. And state lawmakers say that it’s unclear whether lobstering in particular is contributing to the whales’ dwindling numbers.
“This is neighbors in small communities, on islands and peninsulas that have done everything they can to harvest this resource in a responsible manner that allowed the next generation and the next generation and the next generation to have that same job,” the Maine lobsterman Steve Train told the Post.
The labeling change comes as a blow to an industry that has been navigating choppy seas of late. Last month, the sustainability guide Seafood Watch recommended against buying lobsters that come from American or Canadian waters. And conservationists continue to push for legislation that would help save vulnerable animal communities, with the National Marine Fisheries Service pushing for a stronger conservation rule by 2024.
For now, though, it’s mostly up to diners to decide which lobsters they’ll eat. And with Maine lobster being one of the more popular stateside varieties, it’s unclear how many people will actually change their seafood habits.