Whole Foods to Stop Buying Maine Lobster Amid Risk to Endangered Whales


Entire Meals has mentioned it plans to cease shopping for Maine lobster, citing considerations from environmental teams that say endangered North Atlantic proper whales have turn into entangled in fishing gear.

The choice prompted a swift response from Maine’s congressional delegation and governor, who questioned the science behind it and urged Entire Meals to reverse course and resume shopping for the state’s storied crustacean.

Entire Meals mentioned it made the choice in mid-November after two teams that it depends on to certify the sustainability of its wild-caught seafood downgraded their rankings for Maine lobster.

A type of teams, the Marine Stewardship Council, introduced on Nov. 16 that it was suspending its certificates of sustainability for lobster from the Gulf of Maine amid persevering with considerations concerning the decline in the correct whale inhabitants.

North Atlantic proper whales had been almost hunted to extinction by Nineteenth-century whalers, and the newest preliminary estimate means that fewer than 350 stay, in keeping with the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA mentioned that entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes had been the main causes of North Atlantic proper whale deaths.

Entire Meals additionally cited Seafood Watch, which is a part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. In September, the group, which displays how seafood is harvested, assigned a “crimson score” — the worst score — to American lobster, warning customers to keep away from the seafood if it was caught with vertical ropes that may entangle proper whales.

Entire Meals sells wild-caught seafood solely from fisheries which can be licensed by the Marine Stewardship Council or rated both “inexperienced” (“purchase first”) or “yellow” (“purchase, however remember” of considerations) by Seafood Watch, the corporate mentioned in a press release.

“These third-party verifications and rankings are important to sustaining the integrity of our requirements for all wild-caught seafood present in our seafood division,” the assertion mentioned.

Entire Meals mentioned that it might cease shopping for Maine lobster on Dec. 15, however that it was not pulling the product from shops presently.

The corporate added it was not singling out Maine lobster however as a substitute upholding a regular for accountable sourcing that it put in place for all wild-caught seafood in 2012. It mentioned it might resume shopping for Maine lobster if both the Marine Stewardship Council or Seafood Watch modified its evaluation.

“We’re carefully monitoring this example and are dedicated to working with suppliers, fisheries and environmental advocacy teams because it develops,” Entire Meals mentioned.

In a joint assertion, the 4 members of Maine’s congressional delegation — Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden — together with the state’s governor, Janet Mills, sharply criticized the choice to cease shopping for Maine lobster.

“We’re dissatisfied by Entire Meals’ choice and deeply annoyed that the Marine Stewardship Council’s suspension of the lobster business’s certificates of sustainability continues to hurt the livelihoods of hardworking women and men up and down Maine’s coast,” the assertion mentioned.

The assertion additionally mentioned that the delegation lately appealed to retailers by declaring that there had by no means been a proper whale loss of life attributed to Maine lobster gear. It additionally mentioned that Mainers who fish for lobster had a “150-year historical past of sustainability” and had “persistently demonstrated their dedication to defending proper whales.”

“Regardless of this, the Marine Stewardship Council, with retailers following go well with, wrongly and blindly determined to observe the suggestions of misguided environmental teams fairly than science,” the assertion mentioned. “We strongly urge the Marine Stewardship Council and retailers to rethink their doubtlessly devastating choices.”

Jane P. Davenport, a lawyer with the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, mentioned it was deceptive for Maine’s political leaders to say that no proper whale deaths had been attributed to Maine lobster gear. She mentioned most useless whales had been discovered with unmarked ropes, making it tough to know the place the entanglement occurred.

Ms. Davenport mentioned she hoped that business leaders, regulators and others would undertake new know-how that might permit lobster traps to be retrieved and not using a rope remaining completely suspended within the water, the place it could actually snag a passing whale.

“It’s not straightforward, however it’s doable,” mentioned Ms. Davenport, whose group has been concerned in a lawsuit asserting that federal laws aimed toward defending proper whales from deadly entanglements fail to guard the endangered species.

In July, a federal court docket sided with Defenders of Wildlife and different conservation teams, discovering that federal regulators had violated the Marine Mammal Safety Act once they issued guidelines final yr aimed toward defending proper whales from deadly entanglements. The court docket additionally discovered that federal officers had violated the Endangered Species Act, one other landmark regulation that protects proper whales.

In explaining its choice to droop its certificates of sustainability for Maine lobster, the Marine Stewardship Council pointed to that federal court docket ruling. The council mentioned an outdoor group that it requested to evaluate fisheries’ compliance with its requirements discovered no proof that the Maine lobster fishing was liable for entanglements or interactions with proper whales.

Nonetheless, the council mentioned that over the past decade climate-driven shifts in habitats and meals sources had affected proper whale migration patterns, resulting in extra interactions between proper whales, fishing gear and transport vessels.

“This critical and tragic state of affairs is of grave concern to all these concerned within the fishing business, and to the M.S.C.,” the council mentioned in a press release on Nov. 16.

Marianne LaCroix, govt director of the Maine Lobster Advertising and marketing Collaborative, an business group, mentioned she didn’t have knowledge to quantify how a lot of an impression Entire Meals’ choice would have on the state’s lobster business. Entire Meals mentioned it didn’t share gross sales figures for its merchandise. However Ms. LaCroix mentioned, “We hate to lose any companion that we’re promoting to as an business.”


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