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September 19, 2022

Delegation, Governor Mills Pen Open Letter Urging Retailers, Restaurants to Continue Selling Maine Lobster

‘Monterey Bay Aquarium’s recommendations lack credible evidence, but if followed, will have real world implications for the thousands of hardworking lobstermen and women, their families, and our businesses across Maine.’

Washington, D.C.—Following the unsubstantiated decision by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch to include Maine lobster on its seafood “Red List,” Senator Susan Collins, Congressman Jared Golden, Senator Angus King, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and Governor Janet Mills published an open letter to retailers setting the facts straight. 

On behalf of the 4,500 Maine lobstermen and women who will be adversely affected by this unfair and unfounded designation, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills encouraged retailers and restaurants to consider for themselves the overwhelming proof that Maine’s lobster industry is not responsible for the decline of North Atlantic right whales and does not pose an existing threat to the fragile population.  The Maine leaders also highlighted the lobster industry’s long history of sustainability and commitment to protecting the endangered right whale.

“Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch Program has produced recommendations based on claims and false assumptions that ignore scientific principles that should underpin any legitimate ratings,” the Maine leaders wrote.  “To impose a ‘red’ designation grounded in inaccurate and incomplete information severely undermines the credibility of the report’s recommendation.” 

The letter points out that Seafood Watch ignored basic evidence, such as:

  • Maine’s lobstering community has used weak links since 1997 and gear marking since 2002; implemented sinking ground lines in 2009; and reduced vertical lines since 2015, with further reductions in 2021;
  • Over the past decade, the industry has removed an estimated 30,000 miles of line from the ocean;
  • NOAA Fisheries’ own data show that out of the ten right whale entanglements in U.S. lobster gear occurring from 1997 through 2017, eight occurred before 2009 and the other two involved gear from Massachusetts that was successfully removed;
  • There has not been a known right whale entanglement with Maine lobster gear since 2004;
  • Right whale deaths or serious injuries have never been attributed to Maine lobster gear;
  • The majority of known right whale deaths since 2017 have been attributed to vessel strikes in Canada;
  • Of the thirty right whale mortalities occurring between 2017 and 2019, twenty-three of those whales were found in Canadian waters or were killed as a result of entanglement in Canadian fishing gear; and
  • Sightings of right whales have declined in the Gulf of Maine over the past decade, corresponding with the dramatic decline of the whales’ primary food source in the eastern Gulf of Maine.

“Despite having spent nearly two decades implementing significant, responsible changes to its harvesting practices and gear in order to protect the North Atlantic right whale, including extensive new measures in 2022, lobstermen are being told it is still not enough,” the Maine leaders continued.  “Moreover, Seafood Watch ignores the work that has been done to create a sustainable industry.  This damages the reputation of its own certification process by misleading retailers and consumers.  Maine’s lobstermen remain committed to conserving the resource about which they care deeply and to finding solutions that protect both right whales and the industry on which the state and their communities rely.  Spreading misinformation about the sustainability of the lobster fishery and issuing recommendations that ignore the facts risks setting back our shared sustainability goals.”

“We urge you to consider these facts as you seek to provide customers with seafood options that are not only caught in the U.S., but also from a sustainable fishery,” they concluded.  “The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s recommendations lack credible evidence, but if followed, will have real world implications for the thousands of hardworking lobstermen and women, their families, and our businesses across Maine.”

Click HERE to read the letter.


The Maine Delegation and Governor Mills have been steadfastly opposed to the undue burdens that have been imposed on the state’s lobster fishery without meaningfully protecting whales.  Last week, the Maine Delegation and Governor Mills sent a letter directly to Seafood Watch, urging the organization to immediately reverse the controversial listing of Maine lobster and remedy the significant harm they have caused the iconic industry. In addition, Governor Mills sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Raimondo and the Maine Delegation sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service to demand that Maine’s lobster fishery be treated fairly.

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