PATRICK WHITTLE | Press Association

PORTLAND, Maine β€” An international non-profit organization that sets sustainability standards for commercial fisheries management has suspended the certification it granted to the Maine lobster industry amid concerns about damage to whales.

The London-based Marine Stewardship Council said on Wednesday that the suspension of the Gulf of Maine lobster certificate would come into effect on December 15. in fishing gear is a “serious and dire situation” which “seriously worries everyone involved in the fishing industry”.

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The MSC’s decision to decertify the U.S. lobster fishery is the second time a sustainability organization has downgraded the industry this year. Seafood Watch, based at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, said in a late summer report that it added the US and Canadian lobster fisheries to its “red list” of species to avoid concerns about threats to whales.

Some retailers have removed lobsters from their stocks following Seafood Watch’s decision, and the industry may suffer further consequences from the MSC move. The MSC runs the largest seafood certification program in the world and its logo, a blue and white fish, features prominently on many seafood stands.

A third-party evaluator that monitors fisheries compliance with MSC standards audited the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery in September and found the fishing industry non-compliant, the MSC said in a statement. The auditor found the fishery non-compliant due to a federal court decision that the laws governing the industry did not comply with either the Endangered Species Act or the Maine Mammal Conservation Act, the organization said.

β€œTo meet the requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard, fisheries must comply with all relevant regulations,” reads the MSC statement.

Right whales number around 340 and their population is declining. They are prone to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with large vessels.

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Whales breed off the coasts of Florida and Georgia and come north to the waters off New England and Canada to feed. Once abundant, they were decimated during the era of commercial whaling generations ago. The recently warming oceans have become a threat to the species as scientists said this has led the animals to move further away from protected areas in search of food.

The American lobster fishery is based primarily in New England and is one of the most lucrative fishing industries in the country, valued at over $700 million at Maine docks alone last year. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association believes the revocation of the MSC’s certification is “a direct result of the federal government’s overuse and misuse of science in overestimating the risks of Maine’s lobster fishing,” MLA Executive Director Patrice McCarron said Wednesday.

A lobster fishing group is suing the federal government over lobster fishing regulations.

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