The Maine lobster industry is a constant target of radical preservationist environmentalists. If their attacks persist, the industry is sadly at risk of going extinct.
That’s terrible for American conservation.
Earlier this fall, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch “Red List” issued a warning to avoid eating American lobster on account of the alleged harm the industry causes endangered North Atlantic right whales.
By red listing American lobster, Seafood Watch tarnished the sterling reputation of workharding people responsible for harvesting 82% of the nation’s lobster catch. Prompted by this flawed decision, the Marine Stewardship Council also suspended the Gulf of Maine’s MSC certificate effective December 15th, 2022.
These attacks aren’t isolated. The Biden administration seeks to regulate the lobster industry on these grounds too. And in doing so, their actions will result in the endangerment of both lobstermen and rare North Atlantic right whales.
Ahead of last week’s State Dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron, Rep. Golden tweeted, “If the Biden White House can prioritize purchasing 200 Maine lobsters for a fancy dinner, @POTUS should also take the time to meet with the Maine lobstermen his administration is currently regulating out of business.”
Golden alludes to two Commerce Department, specifically the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), rule changes.
The first change, pertaining to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries’ Biological Opinion (BiOp) Conservation Framework, urges 10 fisheries –including U.S. lobster – to adhere to a 98 percent risk reduction from the fishery by 2030.
Per the Maine delegation, this modification would be “a death knell for our nation’s lobster industry” since it already poses a low risk to right whales.
In conjunction with the Conservation Framework, NOAA Fisheries is set to implement an Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan “to reduce the incidental mortality and serious injury to North Atlantic right whales.” It went into effect in September 2022 and demands “at least a 90 percent risk reduction target” from the lobster industry.
Another right whale rule to be finalized by the Commerce Department next year would displace anglers and boaters from waters yet come with no benefit to the whale.
I elaborated on this in an earlier Townhall column, writing, “Radical preservationists similarly blame fishing vessels for contributing to the whale’s demise. In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) ceded to special interests by proposing changes to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule. They argue, “Reducing vessel speed is one of the most effective, feasible options available to reduce the likelihood of lethal outcomes from vessel collisions with right whales.””
Much to the chagrin of radical preservationists and their allies in the Biden administration, lobstermen aren’t foes of the North Atlantic right whale. On the contrary. They’ve made accommodations for the species–which is protected by both the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act–and haven’t been responsible for gear entanglements in over 20 years.
Conservation stakeholders like Maine lobstermen can coexist with these whales.
But since destructive preservationist thinking dominates this White House’s environmental decision, Biden and company believe placing the whale ahead of lobstermen is practical. Instead, it’s counterproductive and antithetical to true conservation practices.
Maine lobstermen also note the Biden administration actively dismisses data showing right whales aren’t migrating to areas where they fish.
If this administration truly cared about the plight of North Atlantic right whales, why are they pursuing 10 large-scale offshore wind projects in the Atlantic Ocean region where these fragile creatures frequent?
As lobstermen and other conservationists don’t pose threats to these whales, what actually endangers the remaining 350 whales? As many of us suspected, it’s actually offshore wind turbines.
According to a bombshell Bloomberg report, a NOAA Fisheries scientist admitted these projects pose a credible threat to the species:
Both initial construction of wind projects and decades of expected operation threaten to imperil right whales in southern New England waters, Sean Hayes, chief of the protected species branch at NOAA’s National Northeast Fisheries Science Center, said in a May 13 letter to Interior Department officials.
Mr. Hayes warned Interior Department officials about greenlighting these, writing, “Additional noise, vessel traffic and habitat modifications due to offshore wind development will likely cause added stress that could result in additional population consequences to a species that is already experiencing rapid decline.”
The report added, “Wind turbines may disrupt the dense concentration of zooplankton that the whales depend on for sustenance, potentially forcing them to spend more energy and take more risks searching elsewhere for food, Hayes said.”
This very admission by a NOAA Fisheries scientist should put a dent in the Biden plan to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
True conservation preaches wise use of natural resources and coexistence between people and nature. Maine lobstermen steward their lot well–even against the backdrop of onerous, strict environmental regulations.
By imposing unreasonable risk reduction demands, the 4,500 people directly and indirectly employed by this $1.4 billion industry face displacement from the workforce— without any added benefit to the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
If lobstermen are regulated out of existence, kiss both this 150-year industry and the right whale goodbye.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t come down to sacrificing one for the other. Let’s save the whales and equally protect Maine lobstermen too.