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Boiling mad lobstermen sue California aquarium they say is endangering their livelihoods by alleging they're endangering right whales

A group of Massachusetts lobstermen says the Monterey Bay Aquarium has cost them significant business by issuing what they charge are false claims that the buoy lines attached to their lobster pots can entangle and drown endangered right whales.

In a suit filed this month in federal court in Louisiana, lobstermen from Gloucester, Marion, North Truro and Plymouth are seeking to become lead plaintiffs in a class-action sui on behalf of an estimated 1,800 Massachusetts lobstermen against the aquarium- in which they are demanding lots of damages for the 30% drop in the price of lobster they claim the aquarium started with a September press release charging lobster catching in waters off New England "pose [a] dire risk to the endangered North Atlantic right whale."

They filed their suit in Louisiana, a state not known for its lobster production, because unlike Massachusetts or California, that state has a law that prohibits the disparagement of aquacultural products.

However, they add that Louisiana is a fine venue for their suit because Louisianans eat New England lobster and because Whole Foods, which has seven stores in that state, stopped selling New England lobster after the aquarium issued its statement and a followup in response to complaints from Maine.

The Massachusetts lobstermen say that in addition to Whole Foods, meal suppliers Hello Fresh and Blue Apron also stopped carrying products from lobsters hauled up from the Gulf of Maine, further endangering a time-honored profession that has fed New Englanders for centuries.

They say the museum is full of tomalley; that the "weak ropes used to attach traps to buoys is no threat to whales, that local lobstermen have cooperated with efforts to protect the whales, that the museum's Seafood Watch program has failed to prove that all lobstermen are endangering right whales and that, in any case, if you want to blame anyone, blame Canada, in whose waters they allege two-thirds of right-whale deaths over the past six years have occurred.

In addition to alleging aquacultural disparagement under Louisiana law, the lobstermen allege the museum's "knowingly false statements" have interfered with their "proprietary rights" by harming their businesses.

Free tagging: 
PDF icon Complete complaint352.96 KB


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It's hilarious that they're suing in the state famous for lobsters that are 4 inches long.


Anything can happen in the courts of Louisiana one guesses, but marine scientists issue findings based on data and long term studies.
As far as weak ropes, I've never seen in my entire time working on a fish pier and a dock and now on my own little boat anyone marketing "weak ropes" to be used in lobstering applications.
Is there a standard for that imposed by any environmental officer that anyone knows about?

Hope your attorney is working on a contingency basis fellas.
The billing hours alone will drive up lobster prices.


That is the new tech I have heard about.

They are beta testing, but only in approved areas.
The Globe wrote on this just a a few days back.
Even if proven effective, many in the industry are very conservative and will balk at the initial cost.


« The other major challenge is ensuring that other fishermen have a way of knowing the locations of on-demand lobster traps, so that those who drag nets or dredges along the sea floor don’t pull up the traps. »

And why is *that* even allowed? There's no way that's not destructive to the seabed.

that every boat has a GPS and when you set a trap you register where it is on an ap so others know how to avoid it?
Plus dragging usually happens in waters not known to be fertile fisheries for the tasty two clawed shellfish and if you don't think dragging isn't destructive to the seabed, there is ample photo evidence available you should avail yourself of.
Solutions address problems every day in every way. It's our thing.

If that's a thing that is done, it's odd that the article doesn't mention it!

Anyway, the net-dragging thing is what I'm concerned about. I'm a little confused what you're trying to say about whether it is or isn't destructive, though. (Are we in agreement? I can't tell.)


can be harvested without rope or line.

It’s enraging that these businesspeople are trying to bankrupt a museum for raising a very real alarm about an important issue. This is exactly the type of discourse the First Amendment protects. The plaintiffs should feel shame (but of course they don’t, or else why would they make such a specious argument?). I wish the worst on them, and I hope the museum’s lawyers are able to wring some anti-SLAPP sanctions out of these bottom feeders. I don’t know about anyone else, but I just lost my appetite for ever eating lobster again. Yech!


You guys remember when people were forced down to the docks by gunpoint by the Federales to buy boats, bait, gear, hire crew, and pick up sea insects, right?

I have never seen a collective group of people try to get away with raping a natural resource as much as this crowd. If you suggest that they maybe follow a few rules, it is like they are having their fingernails pulled out. They make oil and coal mining companies look pious.

Fishing / Lobstering is a choice plain and simple. So what if your great grandfather fished the Grand Banks.

We are down to 300 or so right whales. Use the goddamn new tech.


This looks like a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. That is when companies, organizations, and institutions try to shut down expression they don't like.

Louisiana has an anti-SLAPP law, expect that Monterey Bay Aquarium will try to use it, just as the lobstermen use the aquacultural disparagement law.


I'm not a member of Greenpeace, or any other group known for advocating for preserving our planet and its species, but on my first ever whale watch cruise out of Provincetown 4 years ago, the first whale we encountered, almost immediately, was a humpback that was tangled in fishing line. We (the crew and passengers) were told by the Naturalist on board, that we needed to stand by and await the arrival of the "Disentanglement Team" stationed in P-town. The Naturalist kept the whale in her sights until they arrived in their boat about 10 minutes later. We were all updated a week later as to the results. The whale was safely disentangled. However, that isn't always the case, we all were told. The fact that there exists a DISENTANGLEMENT TEAM illustrates the fact that it is an ongoing problem.


We all enjoyed cheap lobster and we all need to work toward a solution. The lobsterman are in real pain but it is not safe for the whales. Much of New England grew prosperous on whale oil. The whalers were also mostly working people with families.


Everybody hears about the ocean-plastic issue; nobody is told that a huge, huge amount of it isn't actually the umbiquous floating water bottle we see in advertisements (though that is an issue) but broken, abandoned, and otherwise irresponsibly tossed away fishing gear. Something like 75% of ocean plastic has to do with the fishing industry.

It's a problem.