A cooked lobster is served on a picnic table at McLoon's Lobster Shack in Spruce Head, Maine, in this July 19, 2018 file photo. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A national organization has marked lobster with a red A — for avoid.

Seafood Watch, a list compiled by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, classifies seafood by how sustainable it is. The most sustainable — meaning the fisheries have minimal environmental impact, fair working conditions and economic benefits to the whole supply chain — are labeled “best choice.” The worst are labeled “avoid,” as lobster has just been because lobster fishery practices pose a threat to the endangered right whale, the Portland Press Herald reported.

For more than 20 years, Monterey Bay Aquarium has been compiling the list generated through scientific assessment of fishery practices in the U.S. and Canada. It’s meant to help restaurants and other seafood distributors choose sustainable seafood.

The designation hasn’t gone unnoticed by Maine lobster fishers.

It fails to take into account the work that lobster fishers in Maine are taking to protect the right whale, as well as the fact that there has not been a documented encounter between lobster gear and a right whale in coastal waters in nearly 20 years, a member of the Maine Lobsterman’s Association told the Press Herald.

“Today’s decision by Seafood Watch to ‘Red List’ Maine lobster is simply absurd and flies in the face of common sense. The Maine lobster industry – one of our state’s most important economic drivers and a source of pride – has long been committed to environmentally conscious, sustainable fishing,” Sen. Angus King, an independent, said late Tuesday evening.

“Make no mistake, this decision will have a real world impact – with the industry already facing challenges, the accusations of the designation will hurt thousands of families and businesses across our state,” King said. “I hope the millions around the world who enjoy the delicious crustacean will see through this farce, continue to support the iconic industry, and join me in pushing for Seafood Watch to reverse this irresponsible decision and take lobster off the so-called ‘Red List’.”

A federal judge in July ruled that federal fisheries regulators are violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately protect North Atlantic right whales from potentially deadly entanglements in fishing gear, including the rope used by Maine’s lobster fleet.

Maine lobster fishers have been faced with a series of decisions meant to protect the right whale, including using breakaway lines for lobster traps to prevent whale entanglements and a seasonal ban on lobster fishing gear in a nearly 1,000-square-mile area off New England.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.