The media was a buzz recently about a proposed ban for importing lobster to the European Union because North American lobster were found in the water off Sweden. Homarus americanus is native to the east coast of North America but is not found in Europe (good name then, right?) They are considered an invasive species and as such, there was concern about them taking over the habitat of native species. While scientists have indicated that the warmer waters of Europe will not support lobster reproduction, concern remains.
I get it; invasive species can reek havoc on an ecosystem and while lobster are a highly valued species is Canada and the Unites States, the cost of upsetting Mother Nature is much higher. Green crabs have reeked havoc on the east coast since arriving in the bilge of vessels 200 years ago. Even something innocuous like a goldfish can turn bad when it ends up somewhere it shouldn’t.
So, last week the European Union decided there was sufficient concern to warrant more study on a proposed ban. At stake for Canada and the United States: $200 Million US in exports to that market. It’s kind of a big deal. Lobster are shipped live, so by necessity a ban would shut down that market.
What I think needs a bigger review as part of the study is how the lobster arrived in the water off Sweden. This isn’t “Finding Nemo” meets “The Incredible Journey”.** Lobster aren’t hanging out in tanks, plotting their escape from evil
dentists fish mongers to the nearest ocean.
The most logical way lobsters found their way to the waters off Sweden? Someone(s) put them there. Every few months there are stories of people buying lobster and releasing them back to the ocean. While I realize the impact on an industry half a world away isn’t a primary concern of the EU, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the cause (people who release them “back” into the wild) versus shutting down an industry. A quick google search on releasing lobster into the wild would leave you to believe most are looking for some type of public affirmation of their good deed. Like many of us, I’m guessing that the ripple effects of releasing a foreign species into the water wasn’t considered; the ocean is the ocean, right?
If this ban becomes reality, it could be catastrophic for the industry on both sides of the border. It would add to the mystique of lobster in Europe as nothing else could, much as Cuban cigars were so highly sought in the US during the embargo. I’m guessing lobster would be slightly more challenging to sneak through Customs…
** For what it’s worth, I think it would be a cool movie: “Look Bob, I think I the ocean’s just over this hill. Let’s ask that Golden Retriever for help.”