In an apparent attempt to shame Maine lobster fishermen into giving up their livelihoods, a corporate giant – Whole Foods – has suspended the sale of Maine lobsters, saying right whales get caught in the trap lines. As right whales are endangered, lobstering – they say – must stop. This is the wrong answer.

Having spent hours around right whales off Maine and Canada, I am in awe of these giant, playful, people-friendly mammals. They are a sight to behold, as are humpbacks, finbacks and minkes. They often approach boats, seldom cause harm, and deserve out respect.

That said, suspending an entire industry, lobster fishing in Maine – which generates $725 million a year for those who fish, build and maintain boats, traps, transport, and store lobsters – is wrong. The idea is already generating bipartisan condemnation.

Lobstering to Maine is like oilfields to Texas, farming to North Dakota, government to Washington D.C. – a staple of the economy, how many eke out a living. As a Colby study noted, “Maine’s iconic lobster industry is … perhaps the most economically important asset in the state,” directly affecting tourism.

Having been out winters with lobstermen, I can tell you it is not an easy life, not one many politicians would choose – as few lobstermen would choose politics. Point is, it is not only a way to pay bills but a way of life, an intergenerational calling.

For a major company – or government – to single out lobstermen, aiming to shame and damage their way of life, cut off a hard-earned income, even to reduce injury to whales, is wrong.


Maine has 4,500 licensed lobstermen to husband sea along our 3,500-mile coastline, some venturing dozens of miles offshore, mostly June to December (when rights whales are not migrating). By contrast, 16 right whales were entangled in lines in 2017, four died. In 2018, 16 got entangled, three died. In 2019, eight entangled, one died. In 2020, six entangled, zero died. In 2021, six entangled, one died. In 2022, four entangled, zero died.

So, what does this mean? Perhaps 3.5 million lobster traps populate 160,000 square miles of fished ocean for about six months. The injury level is very low. Moreover, many restrictions exist, including 2021 NOAA restrictions, weak lines, inserts, along with new ideas: ropeless fishing and sonar.

In addition, incident data show the reality: Incidents and mortality are falling.

Bottom line: Environmental regulation has its place to preserve sustainable stock and protect endangered species, but reason is essential. Attempting to shame lobstermen and cut off their income is just dumb. It attacks one of the hardest working industries, puts whales over people, and will not work. Lobsters will continue to be caught and sold to those who understand life’s balance. Time for big companies and government to think with the people, not against them.

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