The lawsuit alleges that the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium defamed the Maine lobster industry by claiming that lobster fishing hurts endangered whale species.
A legal coalition representing the Maine lobster fishing industry has filed a lawsuit against a California aquarium.
According to The Associated Press, lobster fishing groups including the Maine Lobstermen’s Association are suing the Monterey Bay Aquarium, saying that their catch should not be included on a “red list” published by Seafood Watch.
Seafood Watch, notes CBS News, is a conservation program piloted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The Associated Press reports that, last year, Seafood Watch put lobster harvested in the United States and Canada on its list of “seafood to avoid.”
The designation relates to the possible entanglement of endangered whales in the fishing equipment used to harvest American lobster.
However, attorneys for the Maine lobstermen say that the aquarium’s recommendation is predicated on bad science.
In its lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maine, the fishermen say that lobster fishing does not pose a significant threat to the North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered species with only 340 specimens remaining in the wild.
Attorneys for the lobsterman have asked that the court order the Monterey Bay Aquarium to remove the purportedly “defamatory statements” from its website and marketing materials.
“This is a significant lawsuit that will help eradicate the damage done by folks who have no clue about the care taken by lobstermen to protect the ecosystem and the ocean,” said Bean Maine Lobster Inc. C.E.O. John Petersdorf, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Lobstermen are very responsible stewards of the ocean. We cannot sit back and let lies to the contrary prevail.”
Kevin Lipson, an attorney representing the lobstermen plaintiffs, told The Washington Post that the lobster-fishing industry “essentially defines the state of Maine.”
“The impact of this not only alters the economic consequences for lobstermen and their communities but it has a devastating effect for the state,” Lipson told the Post. “This is a tradition existing in Maine for generations, and one that’s worth fighting for.”
Nevertheless, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has insisted that its recommendations are based on the best available scientific evidence.
Right whales, the aquarium says, are vulnerable to entanglements caused by lobster fishing equipment.
Kevin Connor, a spokesperson for the aquarium, said that there is “extensive evidence that these fisheries pose a serious risk to the survival of the endangered North Atlantic right whale, and they seek to curtail the First Amendment rights of a beloved institution that educates the public about the importance of a healthy ocean.”