Lobster more than a Maine event

A recent Associated Press story in the OBSERVER caught my eye. The headline said that Whole Foods would no longer be selling Maine lobster in its stores.

My first reaction was to wonder what the lowly, although expensive crustacean had done to warrant such action from Whole Foods usually described as an upscale grocery chain that is owned by Amazon and as such is a part of the Jeff Bezos’ empire.

The Whole Foods action was in reaction to a federal court ruling in a case brought by several environmental groups which stated that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries must do more to protect endangered right whales from death by entanglement in fishing gear, in this case the lines used to raise lobster pots to the surface. This ruling led the Marine Stewardship Council, which I have never heard of previously, but which apparently monitors conformance with its Fishery Standard to announce Maine lobster would no longer be able to carry its blue label, which I have never seen, signaling compliance with its standards.

To add insult to injury the California based Monterey Bay Aquarium through its environment focused seafood watch went and “red listed” Maine lobsters. I guess that means shipments of Maine lobsters will be stopped at the California border. I wonder if that includes the border with Mexico where just about anything gets through?

Obviously, the Maine lobstering industry is up in arms over all this. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association pointed out that it has been two decades since a right whale entanglement related to Maine lobster fishing gear occurred. They went on to say that neither the court nor the National Marine Fisheries Service grasp the devastating impact this decision will have on the Maine lobster industry.

Naturally the politicians joined the fray. Gov. Janet Mills called the court’s decision out of touch with reality and that “Maine lobstermen care about the endangered right whale and have undertaken substantial actions to protect them at great personal expense.” This also infuriated U.S. Sen. Angus King who said of the mushrooming boycott “This is an outrageous act with very real world consequences, and no real scientific evidence.”

I guess the lesson to be learned from this reaction by Mainers’ is that you can say what you want about the state but don’t knock the lobster. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the lobster might soon replace the beloved moose as the state’s official animal.

Fred Terry who is the co-owner of the Lobster Roll a restaurant on Long Island said of the court decision to protect Right whales that “It isn’t well researched. There isn’t a lobster trap in Maine that a right whale couldn’t break the line of and go right through.” I found Terry’s words very interesting, so I decided to find out more about the North Atlantic right whale.

To begin, they are called right whales not because they are right-handed or in their case right flippered but because during the height of whale hunting in the 19thcentury, they were the “right” whale to hunt because when dead their bodies floated at the surface. Adult right whales’ range from 43 to 56 feet in length and weigh in at between 44 and 75 tons. At birth they average 14 feet in length.

Based on their size right whales would never be described as dainty, and it seems likely that as Terry says that they would easily break the lobster traps cable and be on their way The North Atlantic right whale is in decline with only around 340 remaining.

There are several reasons given for this. Some deaths have been attributed to ocean noise created by human activity that make whales less able to avoid predators, humans, and to navigate. Other deaths are caused by collisions with vessels because right whale habitats and migration routes are close to major ports and busy shipping lanes.

Climate change comes in for its share of blame because climate activists say that warming oceans have caused the whales to change their distribution patterns as their prey moved. Finally, although it hasn’t happened in 20 years the court and environmental groups blamed lobster trap cables for killing right whales because lobstermen are an easy target with little in common with federal judges, and progressive environmentalists and politicians.

It’s also likely that they are not Ivy League alums and if their children go to college, it’s probably to a public university or college. Nor is it likely that they read the New York Times. To the elites they are out of sight and out of mind.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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