Several U.S. retailers and restaurants are pulling lobsters from their menu after an influential conservation group alerted that the harvest of the crustaceans in the U.S. and Canadian waters poses a risk to the conservation of a rare whale species.
Seafood Watch, which ranks the sustainability of various kinds of seafood, found that North Atlantic Right whales tend to get entangled in gear connecting to lobster traps, resulting in injuries and fatalities. The group noted that “current management measures do not go far enough to mitigate entanglement risks and promote recovery of the species.”
The group’s recommendations are followed by thousands of businesses in the U.S. food industry. These businesses have taken a pledge to avoid sales of items that appear on the group’s red list, Associated Press reported. Meal kit company Hello Fresh, for one, decided to pull lobsters from its meal kits following Seafood Watch’s announcement. Similarly, Blue Apron has stopped including lobster in its meal kits, adhering to guidelines issued by the group.
According to estimates, less than 340 North Atlantic Right whales exist today, and entanglement in fishing gear is the most significant risk to their existence, followed by collision with ships.
That being said, the lobster fishing industry argues that there have not been any documented incidents relating to the entanglement of the whale specie with lobster fishing gear in almost two decades.
“Lobster is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world due to the effective stewardship practices handed down through generations of lobstermen. These include strict protections for both the lobster resource and right whales,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
Environmental conservation groups, on the other hand, welcomed the news and highlighted the need to do more to conserve endangered whale species.
“Fishery managers must increase protections to save North Atlantic Right whales so seafood retailers, consumers, and restaurants can put American lobster and crab back on the menu,” Oceana campaign director Gib Brogan told Associated Press.
Lobster fishing in the U.S. today is a lucrative industry worth more than $900 million as of 2021. According to estimates, fishermen caught more than 130 million pounds of lobsters last year.