Once upon a time, we had the luxury of never sparing a thought about our planet’s ability to support us. But things have been getting increasingly complicated as we uncover the unexpected fallout of our choices, making stewardship of our natural environment a tricky thing indeed.
The venerable Monterey Bay Aquarium has been doing some of this fancy footwork in the whale-saving department and taking an unexpected detour through seafood lovers’ plates. They’ve red-listed Atlantic lobster – that is, given it their lowest rating, “avoid,” in their Seafood Watch sustainability guide – in an effort to drive down demand for the crustacean. Commercial lobster fishing involves long vertical ropes, stretching from the trap on the sea floor to buoys on the surface, dotted throughout the migration route of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. The whales can get tangled in the fishing gear, which prevents them from swimming and feeding, and potentially causes their deaths.
“Other fisheries added to the red list include all fishing for Jonah crab, and other trap, pot, and gillnet fisheries. Gillnets are a wall of netting that hangs vertically in the water, while traps and pots also have vertical lines from the surface.
Oceana, a conservation pressure group, urged the US and Canadian governments to implement stronger measures to protect North Atlantic right whales. ‘It’s unfortunate that the government’s failure to update the safeguards to protect North Atlantic right whales is having such serious consequences on these [lobster] fisheries,’ said Gib Brogan, Oceana’s campaign director. […]
Strong fishing regulations were needed to avoid interactions and minimise the effects of interactions, he said. To give the species a fighting chance, the National Marine Fisheries Service (also known as NOAA Fisheries) should reduce the number of vertical lines and gillnets in the water and move to whale-safe fishing equipment, such as ropeless gear, Brogan said.
‘Ordering lobster or crab should not mean jeopardising the future of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales,’ he said.”
With fewer than 340 right whales in existence, it’s incredibly important to preserve as many individuals as possible. Doing so by informing lobster fans of the consequences of their favourite nosh is cleverly effective. Love of the delicacy may even drive the reforms right whales need if lobster enthusiasts band together. I’d be happy to sacrifice a few celebratory meals if it means taking responsibility for ourselves and caring for these gentle giants of the seas.