MSC Suspends Lobster Fishery Certification over Right Whale Threat

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has suspended its “blue fish tick” eco-certification of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery following challenges from AWI and allies. The millions of lines tied to the pots and traps used by lobster and crab fisheries in the region pose a considerable entanglement risk to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. 

In July, a federal court ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service—in failing to satisfy risk-reduction mandates of both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act—is delinquent in its duty to protect right whales. With this ruling in hand, AWI, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Defenders of Wildlife submitted joint comments contesting MSC’s certification of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery. In November, the MSC assessment body found that the decision did indeed indicate the fishery was out of compliance with US law and thus does not meet MSC requirements. 

MSC is not the first evaluator to acknowledge the threat: In September, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program placed lobster from the Gulf of Maine in its red “Avoid” category “due to risks to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and insufficient measures for reducing these risks.” 

A number of retailers have responded to these warnings, indicating that they would cease purchasing Gulf of Maine lobster, including HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Whole Foods Market, and the UK’s Marks & Spencer.

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