Clearly, this Swedish ban on certain U.S. lobsters is a legitimate regulation, right?
Oversexed, overfed and over here: that, in a nutshell, is what the Swedes think of the American lobster from Maine, New England. It may be much sought after in restaurants but Sweden does not want the American crustacean to darken EU waters in case it spreads diseases and kills off its smaller cousin.
The Swedish environment ministry on Friday asked the EU to list the Maine lobster as an invasive species and ban the import of the live creatures.
“They pose several potential risks for native species, competing for space and resources, they can interbreed with local species and produce hybrid species, which we don’t know will be viable or not,” said Dr Paul Stebbing of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture science.
The Swedish environment ministry says more than 30 American lobsters have been found along Sweden’s west coast in recent years and that they can carry diseases and parasites that could spread to the European lobster and result in extremely high mortality.
Or is it actually a case of disguised protectionism:
Robert Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, said there is no scientific basis for Sweden’s proposed ban.
“I think what they’re saying, for the most part, is incorrect,” he said.
Bayer said Swedish officials have expressed concerns about the spread of three diseases: epizootic shell disease, gaffkemia or “red-tail,” and white spot syndrome.
Shell disease, a bacterial infection that causes black lesions on lobsters’ shells and can be fatal, has been shown in scientific studies not to be contagious, he said. In fact, no one has been able to make it spread from one lobster to another under controlled conditions.
Red-tail, a bacteria-caused infectious disease, is no longer present in the American lobster population, Bayer said. “I haven’t seen that for about 10 years, so it’s gone.”
White spot syndrome, a highly lethal and contagious viral infection, does not affect lobsters, he said. Only shrimp can catch white spot syndrome.
There is a sentence in the Swedish marine agency’s risk-assessment report that suggests a possible ulterior motive for the proposed ban, according to Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association. A ban on American lobster could boost sales of European lobsters.
“Finally, it should be stressed that a ban on live imports would potentially be beneficial in terms of profits and jobs if the commercial fishery of Homarus gammarus (European lobster) is positively affected by the ban,” Tselikis quoted the report as saying.