The recent “red listing” of Maine lobster has caused quite the uproar and the predictable responses from the industry and politicians. Seafood Watch advises against consuming lobster because of the threat to right whales. Defenders of the industry will claim that the fishery is the most sustainable in the world. Whales aside, the claim is baseless. Here are just a few reasons why:

1) An estimated 175,000 lobster traps are lost in the Gulf of Maine each year. Anyone walking Maine’s shorelines from Cutler Coast to Cape Porpoise has undoubtably seen the piles of plastic-coated traps, foam buoys and polypropylene line that litter our coast.

2) A pound of lobster requires upward of 3 pounds of bait, resulting in a situation where lobstering is more farming than fishing. The industry relies on herring, which is a critical food source for seabirds, marine mammals and sportfish. Herring populations have plummeted to historic lows, forcing lobstermen to switch to menhaden, which has been called “the most important fish in the sea.”

3) Lobstering is carbon intensive. As fishermen set traps, check traps and haul traps, their diesel engines burn immense amounts of fuel. Fishing for lobster and other crustaceans has one of the highest emissions intensities (measured in CO2 equivalent per kg of seafood) of any fishery.

Maybe the Maine Department of Marine Resources should allow commercial diving for lobster; it would solve the whale, litter, bait and carbon problem. Until then, Maine lobster will continue to be unsustainable.

Gabe Andrews

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