A report by a California organization recommending that consumers avoid Atlantic-caught crabs and lobsters has yet to reach the industry.
Seafood Watch, a seafood catch monitoring program developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, believes that current management efforts for crab and lobster catches in the Northeast are not going well. recovery of North Atlantic right whales. Lobsters and snow crabs caught in Atlantic Canada therefore fall into the “avoid” category of the rankings released earlier this month.
Since then, fishermen’s organizations have continuously challenged this recommendation. Nathanael Richard, director of the Marine Lobster Processors Association, does not hide his disappointment and questions the methodology used by the American organization.
He recalls that there has not been a single documented case of fatality associated with Canadian lobster fishing gear.
“It’s a simplistic approach, putting all fisheries in one basket,” he complains. “Made without nuances!”
Luc LeBlanc, fisheries adviser for the Marine Fishermen’s Union, agrees. He states that fishing seasons are only about 60 days long compared to twelve months a year in the United States, and points to the fact that Canadian fishermen are not allowed to set as many traps as New England fishermen.
He adds that the whale does not enter the shallow waters where lobster fishing is concentrated. “There is a small risk of entanglement aboard lobster boats,” says Mr LeBlanc.
Seafood Watch’s findings, he said, do not take into account efforts made in recent years to ensure coexistence with marine mammals, whether by closing fishing areas or using low-strength ropes.
Since the release of the report, Jeff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada has been trying to get a different story to be heard to save the industry’s image.
The economic stakes are high, with the value of Canadian lobster exports reaching $3.2 billion in 2021, a record. Should we expect consequences for the marketing of crustaceans?
“It’s too early to tell,” says Mr. Irvine. But so far, no major retailer has stopped their deliveries.”
He notes that lobsters from the Primorye region are part of a fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which aims to ensure respect for fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
Responding to the controversy, the organization that issues the blue label recently said that all certified fisheries are subject to an annual independent and transparent audit.
“It places an extremely high burden of proof on certified fisheries, requiring them to scientifically demonstrate their ability and effectiveness to respond to unforeseen changes in the ecosystem. This includes considering the impact of fishing on vulnerable species such as right whales,” the Marine Stewardship Council said in a statement.
The release reassures Nathanael Richard, for whom the MST certification, which he considers more stringent, carries more weight in the eyes of buyers.
He would like to see more decision makers publicly support lobstermen on this file, as the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has done. “Our government is too reserved, it should prefer an offensive approach and protect Canada’s record.”
“It’s a bit of radio silence from governments,” adds Luc LeBlanc. We are a little surprised and disappointed.”
The Monterey Bay Aquarium did not respond to our request for an interview.