In an apparent attempt to shame Maine lobster fishermen into giving up their livelihoods, a corporate giant – Whole Foods – has suspended selling 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.
First, 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 the Humpbacks, Finbacks, and Minkes that swim the Maine coast. They often approach boats, seldom cause harm, and deserve respect.
That said, suspending an entire industry of lobster fishing in Maine – which generates 725 million dollars a year for those who fish, build and maintain boats, traps, transport, storage, and tourists – is wrong. Moreover, the idea will be resented and ineffective, already generating bipartisan condemnation.
Lobstering in Maine is like working oilfields in Texas, farming in North Dakota, and government in Washington DC – it is a staple of the economy, a centerpiece, a way many struggle to eke out a living. As one Colby study noted, “Maine’s iconic lobster industry is arguably the most visible, and perhaps the most economically important asset in the state,” directly affecting tourism.
Having been out winters with lobstermen, it is not an easy life, not one any deskbound, tightly wound politician would choose – and in fairness, most lobstermen would never choose politics. The point is – lobstering is not only a way to pay bills but a way of life, often a deep, intergenerational calling.
For a major company – or for the government – to single out lobstermen, aim to damage their way of life, cut off their hard-earned but modest income, even to reduce injury to whales, is not “thought out.”
Consider that Maine has just 4500 licensed lobstermen. They battle with severe weather, uncertain demand, high fuel, bait, boat repair, and transportation costs, plus Canadian competition to farm the sea adjacent to 3,500 miles of Maine coastline, out all day, some to 45 miles, mostly June to December.
By contrast to this human concern – tens of thousands of Maine mouths fed by the income from lobstering – we know the following: 16 Right Whales were entangled in fishing lines in 2017, of which four died. In 2018, 16 got entangled, and three died. In 2019, eight were entangled, and one died. In 2020, six were entangled, and zero died. In 2021, six were entangled, and one died. In 2022, four were entangled, and zero died.
Now pause, and ask – even if you love seeing Right Whales – what is happening?
First, injuries are rare. With perhaps 3.5 million lobster traps populating 160,000 square miles of open ocean, usually for about six months, the injury level is very low.
Second, while Right Whales are endangered, a number of fishing restrictions have been put in place, with more (voluntary and involuntary) under consideration to protect Right Whales. These include 2021 NOAA restrictions, weak lines, and break-free inserts, rope-less fishing and sonar ideas, and others.
Third, taken as a whole, incident data show core realities: Incidents and mortality seem to be falling, some named whales are more inclined to get entangled, and disentangling is a well-used option.
Bottom line: Environmental regulation has its place to preserve sustainable stock and protect endangered species, but reason is essential. Humans need to be able to make a living from the ocean and people eat what is caught. How lobsters are caught – to protect whales – continues to evolve.
Moreover, attempting to shame lobstermen, cut off their income by refusing to sell lobsters on the open market is just dumb. It attacks one of the hardest working industries out there, mis-prioritizes whales over thousands of human lives, and – in the end – will not work, economically.
Why? Because people like lobsters, which are part of the ocean’s bounty. And lobstering is an honorable profession. Lobsters will continue to be caught, even if some want to shame lobstermen into quitting. What caught will just sold to those who want them, who understand life’s balance.
Nothing that company does will reduce lobstering, end the noble profession, take people off the sea, or come from their misplaced “virtue signaling.” And those care about whales will keep looking for innovations to help them, this company’s actions notwithstanding.
One last point. Where, if you think on it, have you seen similar behavior? The woke world has decided to shame many hardworking, industrious Americans into giving up their livelihoods, from those who work in oil fields and generate electricity from fossil fuels to those who teach and honor girls’ sports, from those who look for moderation in industry and education to those who speak politically on these issues. Trying to kill lobstering is overdoing environmental regulation, in a phrase – just dumb.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now