WASHINGTON — Following the decision by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to place Maine lobster on their seafood “Red List,” Rep. Jared Golden, D-Dist. 2, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, today announced that they will introduce the Red Listing Monterey Bay Aquarium Act in the House and Senate.

The 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 which the legislators said in their press release demonstrated “a lack of adherence to transparency and basic scientific methods.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Dist. 1, uill 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,” Golden said in the Oct. 5 press release. “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.”

King said, “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.

“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.”

Collins said in the release, “Our lobstermen are incredible conservation leaders, and our iconic Maine lobster industry is sustainable. 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.”

Pingree added, “Maine’s lobster industry is sustainable, period. Our lobstermen have been outstanding stewards who have complied with every single regulation thrown their way. 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.

Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, said, “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.”

Virginia Olsen, commercial lobsterman and director of the Maine Lobstering Union, said, “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.”

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 press release from Golden’s office said. The majority of right whale deaths since 2017 have been caused by 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, Collins and 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. King continued these calls in a press conference he held shortly after the Red Listing decision.