In this May 29, 2020, file photo, Eric Pray unpacks a lobster on a wharf in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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It’s a trap!

Members of the Chinese media and government (often a distinction without a difference) are trying to convince people that Maine lobster had something to do with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t take the bait.

Chinese media outlets have  now suggested that a 2019 shipment of Maine lobster was a “Pandora’s box” that ushered in the global pandemic. This isn’t the only fishy deflection that Chinese officials have tossed into the water. Previously, they’ve cast aspersions about other imported food, including  Australian seafood. Now it seems that Maine lobster is next on their menu of COVID-19 origin distractions.

The timing and aim of these attempts at confusion are no mystery. It comes after China has resisted a plan from World Health Organization officials trying to learn more about the origins of COVID-19. It has been a continuation of China’s efforts to sidestep data requests and refusal to cooperate with attempts to investigate how the pandemic started. The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, and no amount of spin from Chinese officials can change that fact.

As we’ve written before about the U.S. government, when fact-finding efforts meet repeated resistance, there’s probably a reason. We don’t say that to feed into the many conspiracy theories that have been floated about China’s role in the pandemic and the government lab in Wuhan, but instead to sink another of the conspiracy theories that Chinese officials have been tossing around in an attempt to point a finger at anyone but themselves.

A recent report from the U.S. intelligence community was ultimately inconclusive about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But input from officials from around the world has us confident that we can dismiss the Chinese claims about Maine lobster. The WHO, United Nations and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have all previously said there has been no connection between seafood and COVID-19 outbreaks, as reported by Seafood Source

“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can infect aquatic food animals (e.g. finfish, crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians) and therefore these animals do not play an epidemiological role in spreading COVID-19 to humans,” a group of researchers wrote in a 2020 paper published in Asian Fisheries Science.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Robert Long has said there is “no scientific evidence” to support the Chinese claims about Maine lobster.

The U.S. intelligence community, across various agencies, does not believe the virus was developed as a biological weapon or that Chinese officials had prior knowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19. However, there is not agreement across all of these agencies as to whether the first virus infection originated in nature or through a lab-related incident.

“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States,” stated the unclassified U.S. intelligence report released in August. “These actions reflect, in part, China’s government’s own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration [that] the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China.”

We don’t have much of a high horse to sit on here in America when it comes to misinformation and conspiracy theories. We have people who falsely believe that COVID-19 vaccines connect you to 5G networks. We have a former president and his allies who have pushed relentlessly to sow doubt about a legitimate election, including an outlandish claim from Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone about North Korean boats delivering fraudulent ballots via the coast of Maine.

But even from that not-so-high horse, it’s easy to see the way that Chinese officials are clawing for excuses and deflections. Maine lobster is just the newest target in this ridiculous effort.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...