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MLA Joins Industry Allies to Sue Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association and industry allies filed a defamation lawsuit in the Maine U.S. District Court in March against the Monterey Bay Aquarium, alleging the aquarium’s statements that Maine lobster gear threatens endangered right whales “have caused substantial economic harm to plaintiffs, as well as to the Maine lobster brand.”

Co-plaintiffs are Bean Maine Lobster Inc., the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Atwood Lobster LLC, and Bug Catcher Inc., owned by Port Clyde lobsterman and MLA board member Gerry Cushman.

According to the MLA, the lawsuit “alleges that Monterey Bay Aquarium knowingly ignored and mischaracterized scientific data to convince the public that, despite their sustainable practices, Maine lobstermen are causing harm to endangered North Atlantic right whales.”

The MLA and others will not let the Monterey Bay Aquarium's action against the lobster fishery stand. MLMC photo.

“The Aquarium’s actions are harming Maine lobstermen and the thousands of people involved in the lobster industry,” said Kristan Porter, president of the MLA. “We are facing ongoing economic harm and loss of the brand value of Maine lobster as a result of the Aquarium’s defamatory statements.” The complaint says Monterey Aquarium disregarded evidence that the Maine lobster fishery is a much lesser risk to whales than other sources. “The Aquarium has not engaged in a ‘rigorous, transparent, science-based process’ to support its representations to businesses and consumers about Maine-caught lobsters. At best, the Aquarium has engaged in wild speculation about the cause of these entanglements, with a reckless disregard for the truth…,” the complaint continues.

“This is a significant lawsuit that will help eradicate the damage done by folks who have no clue about the care taken by lobstermen to protect the ecosystem and the ocean,” stated John Petersdorf, CEO of Bean Maine Lobster Inc. “Lobstermen are very responsible stewards of the ocean. We cannot sit back and let lies to the contrary prevail.”

“Lobstermen have been under constant assault for the past several years. Yet the science is clear — right whales are not dying in Maine lobster gear,” stated Patrice McCarron, policy director for the MLA. “In fact, the opposite is true. Innovations by Maine lobstermen have been instrumental in minimizing harm to whales.”

The plaintiffs ask for an injunction to remove lobster from the Aquarium’s “red list” and to award damages as well as a favorable judgement on their claim of defamation.

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