Over the last 30 years, the Massachusetts Lobster industry has been at the
forefront on right whale conservation measures while working vigorously to
further protect the species. The 30 years of conservation measures have come at the expense of the commercial lobstermen and yet, they are still at the table looking for more ways to reduce risk.
Recently, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch program added the American Lobster to its “Red List” of seafoods to avoid. This recent listing is neither warranted nor supported by the data here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts commercial lobstermen are mandated to a 100% reporting threshold and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has 30 plus years of data necessary to debunk why Massachusetts lobster should not be on this “Red List”.
Massachusetts commercial lobstermen are 30 years ahead of the rest of the region when it comes to reducing risk to the right whales. Currently, Massachusetts commercial lobstermen have reduced risk by 92% to the right whales and this listing is misleading to the general public and should be retracted immediately.
Massachusetts is doing more than any other state or region
for the protection of right whales all the while maintaining
a sustainable resource and profitable commercial lobster
fishery. The Massachusetts American Lobster should be
listed on the “Green List” of seafoods to buy.
There have been ZERO Right Whale deaths attributed
to Massachusetts Lobster gear and the MBA’s conclusion snubs all of the right whale conservation efforts that Massachusetts commercial lobstermen have implemented such as:
1935- International ban on hunting whales goes into effect
1970- North Atlantic Right Whales listed as endangered
1996- NOAA implements the Large Whale Take
1997-MA requirement for “breakaway” features in
gillnets and trap/pot buoy lines Seasonal ban in Cape
Cod Bay for gillnets and on use of floating rope between
traps, dedicated aerial surveys begin in Cape Cod Bay
2004 – First in Nation for year-round ban on floating
rope between traps in Cape Cod Bay (9,000 miles
2007 – First in Nation for year-round ban on use of
floating rope between traps statewide
2014- First in Nation- MA Restricted Area is created –
3-month closure Feb-April to 3,071 sq. miles 2015 – 3
month (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the MA
2016 – 3 months (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the
MA Restricted Area
2017 – 3 month (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the
MA Restricted Area PLUS 4-day extension of the gear closure in Cape Cod Bay 2018 – 3 month (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the MA Restricted Area PLUS a 15-day extension of the gear closure and speed restriction (10 mph) for small vessels in Cape Cod Bay
2019- 3 month (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the MA Restricted Area
2020 – 3 month (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the MA Restricted Area
2021 – 3 (Feb/Apr) closure to all pots/traps in the MA Restricted Area PLUS a 15-day extension of the gear closure and speed restriction (10 mph) for small vessels in Cape Cod Bay 2022 – Southern N.E. closed 5,648 sq. miles est. right whale population 350. Making the total sq. miles 11,722 closed to lobstering.
Over the last 5 years, the Massachusetts Lobster
Foundation in collaboration with the Massachusetts
Lobstermen’s Association and Ketcham Trap developed
weaker red and candy cane rope breaking at 1,700 lbs.,
with a MASS LOBSTER tracer ribbon.
The commercial lobstermen in Massachusetts have been
fishing this weakened rope for 4 years now without many
issues. We are working with Ketcham Trap on every
iteration to make it a little better but still weak to keep the
The Massachusetts Environmental Trust, Drive for a better environment, provided grant funding to further Massachusetts commercial lobstermen’s conservation efforts on behalf of right whales and all whale species. To learn more about all of the Massachusetts right whale conservation measures, please visit the Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts at http://www.lobsterfoundationofma.org September 13, 2022