Statement: Environmental group applauds Whole Foods for acting to save the right whale

Media Contacts
Virginia Carter

Save America's Wildlife Campaign, Associate, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Taran Volckhausen

Former Communications Associate, The Public Interest Network

The grocery chain announced it will pause Maine lobster purchases because of concerns for North Atlantic right whales

AUSTIN, Texas – Whole Foods announced on Friday that it will suspend purchasing of New England Lobster caught in the Gulf of Maine following the Marine Stewardship Council and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch issuing warnings about the industry’s deadly impact on a highly endangered whale species. Fishing line entanglements from lobster harvesting are a leading cause of death and serious injury for critically-endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Earlier this week, the Marine Stewardship Council revoked its blue label for New England lobster. Its decision came after Seafood Watch red-listed the crustacean in September, marking it as one of the least sustainable seafood choices. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “Studies suggest that more than 85 percent of North Atlantic right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once. About 60 percent have been entangled multiple times.” The threat has led NOAA Fisheries to close off areas to traditional lobster fishing practices in right whale habitat. Ropeless fishing, which does not present an entanglement threat to right whales, is still allowed in these areas. 

In response, Virginia Carter, Save America’s Wildlife Campaign associate with Environment America, said: 

“Whole Foods has taken important action to protect the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. With fewer than 340 North Atlantic right whales in existence, the species is swimming toward extinction unless things turn around. We appreciate that the grocer paused lobster purchases from the Gulf of Maine, one of the places where lobster ropes threaten the few remaining right whales we have left. 

“The fishing industry can and must switch over to ropeless fishing gear. That’s the future we hope to see: New England lobster men and women using newer, safer ropeless gear and right whales making a comeback and thriving once again.”