California Court Dismisses New England Lobstermen’s Lawsuit Against Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Although the lawsuit was dismissed after all involved parties reached a settlement, an attorney for the Monterey Bay Aquarium has since posited the outcome as a “victory” for the “First Amendment.”


A California court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by New England fishermen, who accused a conservation group of jeopardizing their industry by adding lobster to its list of seafood best avoided.

As LegalReader.com has reported before, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association first filed its lawsuit against the Monterey Bay Aquarium in March of 2023. In their complaint, the lobstermen said that the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program cited bad science in a report advising consumers to steer clear of New England lobster.

Seafood Watch had, at the time, suggested that endangered whales are regularly entangled in lobster nets cast off the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada.

According to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s lawsuit, the Monterey Bay Aquarium knew that its action “would result in financial harm to plaintiffs and lobstermen like them.”

“This is a significant lawsuit that will help eradicate the damage done by folks who have no clue about the care taken by lobstermen to protect the ecosystem and the ocean,” Bean Lobster Inc. C.E.O. John Petersdorf said in a 2023 statement. “Lobstermen are very responsible stewards of the ocean. We cannot sit y and let lies to the contrary prevail.”

Lobster and shellfish; image courtesy of NadineDoerle via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

The complaint had claimed that Seafood Watch’s “red rating” against New England lobster products misrepresented the precautions adopted by the industry, including months-long seasonal fishing closures and the use of what they term “weak ropes.”

In response, the Monterey Bay Aquarium condemned the lawsuit as “meritless” and an attempt “to curtail the First Amendment rights of a beloved institution that educates the public about the importance of a healthy ocean.”

Earlier this week, though, judges from U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit, noting that all parties involved had reached an agreement to end litigation.

Rebecca Kaufman, an attorney for the aquarium, has since posited the dismissal as a victory.

“The dismissal is both a victory for the critically endangered right whale and for the free speech of those committed to protecting vulnerable species and preserving the ocean for future generations,” Kaufman said.

The Daily News adds that the complaint had sought $75,000 in damages for disparagement of lobster product.

“After lengthy discussions among the named individuals in the suit, they agreed to dismiss the Class Action Suit[,] as a win in the California court is highly unlikely and extremely costly,” the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said in a statement to The Boston Herald. “The laws in California would ultimately hold these individuals financially responsible for the defendant’s legal fees should they prevail.”

Sources

Lawsuit over California group’s do-not-eat listing for American lobster dismissed

Mass. lobstermen drop lawsuit against Calif. aquarium

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