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The lobster industry has lost a crucial certification for sustainability

The influential Marine Stewardship Council says it has concerns over the effect on right whales.

These Maine lobsters were caught in the Penobscot Bay.
These Maine lobsters were caught in the Penobscot Bay.

In significant news for the lobster industry, the Marine Stewardship Council has suspended its certification of lobster as sustainable, citing concerns about the lucrative industry’s effect on critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The suspension, effective Aug. 30, applies to all lobster in the Gulf of Maine, according to the council, a London-based nonprofit that sets international standards for sustainable fishing.

“The suspension comes following an expedited audit and thorough review … during which it was determined that the fishery no longer meets the MSC fisheries standard,” said Jackie Marks, a spokeswoman for the council.

The suspension was linked to a federal district court ruling in April that found that the National Marine Fisheries Service had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect right whales from becoming entangled in millions of lobster lines.

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The lines, which extend from traps on the seafloor to buoys on the surface, have in recent years been the leading cause of death for the whales, whose numbers have declined by about 20 percent over the past decade to a population of about 400.

As a result of the suspension, the lobster industry must provide “requisite notice to customers” and cease selling fish as “MSC certified.” The fishery must also provide a “corrective action plan.”

The industry is crucial to coastal New England, contributing an estimated $1.5 billion alone to Maine’ economy.

This suspension does not impact lobster fisheries in Canada


David Abel can be reached at david.abel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.