PORTLAND — Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, Gov. Janet Mills, and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden have called on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to immediately reverse the controversial listing of Maine lobster on their seafood “Red List” and to remedy the significant harm they have already caused the industry.

In a letter Sept. 9 to the aquarium’s board, the Maine leaders highlighted the significant factual omissions of Seafood Watch’s lobster report, criticized the organization for holding the Maine lobster industry to an impossible “guilty until proven innocent” standard, and called for answers on several key questions.

“The recent decision by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to ‘Red List’ Maine lobster with scant evidence of impacts on right whales is a reckless piece of activism that will inflict substantial negative real-world consequences on an important and iconic industry in Maine,” they wrote.

“In a courtroom, we require evidence before convicting someone of a crime; but you are seeking to sentence Maine’s lobstermen with conjecture, assumptions, and guesswork instead of hard facts. If anything, the publicly available facts rebut this aggressive action that will impact the livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine, and make it clear that you should immediately reverse the irresponsible designation.”

The Maine leaders laid out three key facts left out of Seafood Watch’s “Red List” assessment:

1.      There has not been a right whale entanglement with Maine lobster gear since 2004, and right whale deaths or serious injury have never been attributed to Maine lobster gear.

2.     The majority of right whale deaths since 2017 have resulted from vessel strikes in Canada. In fact, 23 of the 30 whales that died between 2017 and 2019 were found in Canadian waters or were a result of entanglement in Canadian fishing gear.

3.     The Maine lobstering community has taken many measures, including eliminating all floating rope (the type of rope most likely to entangle whales), and removed more than 30,000 miles of line from the water, “facts your report conveniently ignores.”

“By ignoring these clear facts, Seafood Watch isn’t encouraging safe fishing; instead, you are damaging the reputation of your certification process by misleading consumers. There’s an easy way to fix this — now that you’ve seen the facts, reverse your decision and take lobster off the ‘Red List,’” they wrote.

“In any fair system of justice or public proceeding, it’s required to provide evidence of wrongdoing before a verdict can be rendered — innocent until proven guilty. The process you have undertaken turns this principle on its head,” they said.