The lobster boat Dirge II out of South Portland motors off Kennebunkport near Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport in Nov. 2023. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A defamation lawsuit filed 10 months ago by a handful of Maine lobstermen’s groups will continue even though a similar suit brought by Massachusetts lobstermen was dismissed Tuesday.

Five plaintiffs, including the Maine Lobsterman’s Association and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, sued the California-based Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation in March 2023 after the organization’s Seafood Watch program included lobster on a “red list” of food consumers should avoid. Seafood Watch cited the industry’s impact on the endangered North Atlantic right whale as the reason for the designation.

The suit argued that reasoning was not only false but has caused substantial harm to the plaintiffs and the Maine lobster brand.

“Overall consumer demand for Maine-caught lobsters has decreased since September 2022, due in whole or in part to the aquarium’s false statements, depressing the price for lobsters and causing further commercial harm to Plaintiffs,” the groups said in their complaint.

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association filed a similar suit, also in March 2023, on behalf of four lobstermen who were seeking $75,000 in damages.

On Tuesday, a judge agreed to dismiss the suit with prejudice, according to the Boston Herald.


“After lengthy discussions among the named individuals in the suit, they agreed to dismiss the class-action suit, as a win in the California court is highly unlikely and extremely costly,” the MLA said in a statement to the Herald on Tuesday. “The laws in California would ultimately hold these individuals financially responsible for the defendant’s legal fees should they prevail.”

It’s unclear whether the outcome in the Massachusetts case will affect Maine’s case, which has yet to go to trial.

Kevin Lipson, a Washington, D.C. attorney representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment on Tuesday’s decision involving the Massachusetts case because Maine’s case is still pending.

In addition to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, three others are named as plaintiffs: Atwood Lobster, a wholesaler in South Thomaston, Bean Lobster Inc. of Rockland, and Gerald Cushman, a lobsterman from Port Clyde.

The Monterey aquarium, which first added lobster to its “red list” in September 2022, said last spring that both lawsuits were “meritless.”

The aquarium’s attorney told the Boston Herald the dismissal of the Massachusetts case was “both a victory for the critically endangered right whale and for the free speech of those committed to protecting vulnerable species and preserving the ocean for future generations.”

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