By PATRICK WHITTLE | The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine – An international nonprofit organization that sets sustainability standards for commercial fishing management has suspended a certification it issued to Maine’s lobster industry over concerns about damage to whales.
Representatives of the London-based Marine Stewardship Council said on Wednesday that the suspension of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishing certificate would come into effect on December 15. in fishing gear is a ‘serious and tragic situation’ which is of ‘serious concern to all involved in the fishing industry’.
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The MSC’s decision to withdraw its certification from the US lobster fishery marks the second time a sustainability organization has downgraded the industry’s status this year. Seafood Watch, based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, said in a late summer report that it added US and Canadian lobster fisheries to its “red list” of species to avoid concerns about risks to whales.
Some retailers removed lobster from their inventory after Seafood Watch’s decision, and the industry could face more repercussions from MSC’s decision. MSC operates the largest seafood certification program in the world, and its logo, a blue and white fish, is featured prominently on many seafood counters.
A third-party assessor who monitors fisheries for compliance with MSC standards conducted an audit of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery in September and found the fishing industry was not compliant, the MSC said in a statement. communicated. The auditor concluded that the fishery was out of compliance due to a federal court ruling that the rules governing the industry did not satisfy the Endangered Species Act or the Conservation Act. of Maine’s mammals, the organization said.
“To meet the requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard, fisheries must comply with all applicable laws,” the MSC statement said.
Right whales number about 340 and their population is declining. They are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with large vessels.
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The whales give birth off Florida and Georgia and come north to New England and Canadian waters to feed. Once abundant, they were decimated during the era of commercial whaling generations ago. More recently, warming oceans have become a threat to the species, scientists have said, leading the animals to move away from protected areas in search of food.
Lobster fishing in the United States is based primarily in New England and is one of the country’s most lucrative fishing industries, valued at more than $700 million from the Maine docks alone last year. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association believes the MSC’s decertification is the “direct result of the federal government’s overreach and misuse of science in overestimating the risks associated with Maine’s lobster fishery,” the executive director said Wednesday. of the MLA, Patrice McCarron.
The lobster fishing group has an active lawsuit against the federal government over lobster fishing rules.
The MP is “working to hold the federal government accountable through our legal action and to force it to revise its plan so that it actually protects the whales without leaving Maine’s historic lobster fishery in ruins and inflicting unnecessary economic damage to our state and thousands of working families.” McCarron said.
Whales are also at the center of the concerns of conservation organizations. Some U.S. fisheries, including the lobster industry, “take place in seasonal hotspots where North Atlantic right whales are known to be found, and they use excessive gear, which creates a unacceptable and illegal risk of entanglement,” said Gib Brogan, a fishing campaign manager at the nonprofit conservation organization Oceana.