Golden, King to Introduce Bill that Blocks Federal Funding for Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch
Washington, October 5, 2022
Following the unsubstantiated and speculative decision by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch to place Maine lobster on their seafood “Red List,” Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) and Senator Angus King (I-ME) today announced that they will be introducing the Red Listing Monterey Bay Aquarium Act in the House and Senate. This bill would prohibit federal taxpayer funds from going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has received nearly $197 million in federal taxpayer dollars since 2001, and demonstrated a lack of adherence to transparency and basic scientific methods [source, source].
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) will sign on as cosponsors of the legislation.
“Institutions like Monterey Bay Aquarium that claim to be scientific but openly flout available evidence and data should not receive taxpayer funds. It’s that simple,” said Congressman Golden. “This organization’s red list designation of American lobster could have a serious impact on the livelihoods of thousands of hard-working lobstermen, and I believe Congress must do something about it. There has never been a serious injury or death of the endangered North Atlantic right whale attributed to the Maine lobster fishery and to make recommendations or regulations in spite of that fact is a slap in the face to lobstermen and their families.”
“The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s ‘Red Listing’ of Maine lobster is a baseless attack on a proud, sustainable fishery and a clear attempt to put thousands of Maine people out of work. By refusing to provide any evidence supporting their harmful decision and ignoring facts that undercut their conclusion, the Aquarium has made it clear that they are not a serious scientific organization, and certainly not one that deserves taxpayer funding,” said Senator King. “The Red Listing Monterey Bay Aquarium Act would ensure that Maine people’s hard-earned tax dollars aren’t funding the Aquarium’s pseudoscientific assault on our lobstering communities. It sends a clear message that we will not stand for this outrageous approach to scientific research.”
“Our lobstermen are incredible conservation leaders, and our iconic Maine lobster industry is sustainable,” said Senator Collins. “There is zero evidence to justify this absurd decision by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be funding this kind of activism, which aims to deter restaurants and retailers from selling Maine lobster, threatening the livelihoods of hardworking men and women across the state of Maine.”
“Maine’s lobster industry is sustainable, period. Our lobstermen have been outstanding stewards who have complied with every single regulation thrown their way,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch program’s unscientific ‘red list’ decision is not rooted in facts or data. That’s why I have urged them to revoke this harmful mischaracterization of our gold standard lobster industry.”
Advocates and members of the Maine lobster fishery voiced their support for the bill.
“Lobster is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world due to the effective stewardship practices handed down through generations of lobstermen. These include strict protections for both the lobster resource and right whales. Decisions not based in sound science have the potential to seriously harm the men and women who work so hard to make our industry thrive. It defies logic that a group claiming to care about conservation and sustainability would give a poor rating to a fishery that has led the way in innovating safer gear and has not had a documented interaction with a right whale in nearly 20 years,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association.
“Maine lobstermen have led the fishing industry in sustainability for more than 150 years, working together to keep lobster stock and the marine environment healthy through strict take and gear regulations. Now an organization thousands of miles away with no real understanding of Maine’s lobster fishery or evidence to justify their decisions is condemning our fishermen. Monterey Bay Aquarium's actions are an insult that is not grounded in science and should not be supported by the American taxpayer. The Maine Lobstering Union strongly supports this legislation from Congressman Golden and Senator King,” said Virginia Olsen, commercial lobsterman and Director of the Maine Lobstering Union.
There hasn’t been a whale entanglement attributed to Maine lobster gear since 2004 and no documented right whale death has ever been attributed to Maine lobster gear. The majority of right whale deaths since 2017 have been due to vessel strikes in Canada, and of the 33 right whale mortalities occurring between 2017 and 2020, 24 of those whales were confirmed to be attributed to entanglements in Canadian fishing gear and vessel strikes in Canadian waters.
Golden, King, Senator Collins, and Congresswoman Pingree wrote to the Monterey Bay Aquarium shortly after the red listing decision was made public to call on the organization to immediately reverse the decision and to remedy the significant harm they have already caused the iconic industry. The Congressional Delegation also published an open letter to retailers setting the facts straight and urging them to continue selling lobster. Senator King continued these calls in a press conference he held shortly after the Red Listing decision.
Since his election to Congress, Golden has been a tireless advocate for the Maine lobster fishery. In the wake of new proposed regulations that would threaten the livelihoods of Maine lobstermen, Golden introduced a bold amendment to block the regulations until the underlying data had undergone a scientific peer review process. He has worked closely with the lobstering community to ensure that they have a voice in the processand has joined the Maine Delegation in urging NOAA to create regulations that are based on the best available evidence and don’t unfairly target the fishery. To help lobstermen bear the costs of complying with the regulations, Golden introduced legislation that would offset costs and worked with Senator King and members of the Maine Delegation to secure $17.1 million in funding for the industry in a yearly appropriations bill. He also led the Delegation to urge the president to intervene directly.
The bill text can be found here.