Seafood Controversy: Will Disney Stop Serving Lobster?

A new, unfavorable sustainability rating for the Maine and New England lobster fisheries could mean less lobster dishes on the menu at Disney restaurants.

The lobster roll sandwich at Columbia Harbour House.

The rating for American and Canadian Lobster — which had been under consideration by conservation group Seafood Watch for most of this year — was changed to “Avoid” this week.

As DFB reported in June, lobster had begun quietly disappearing off Disney World restaurant menus, largely due to pricing pressures and the potential for the change in American Lobster’s sustainability rating.

Disney has partnered with Seafood Watch — a conservation group based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that rates the sustainability of seafood — for more than a decade, and instructed its chefs to develop dishes using seafood that the group recommends. Seafood Watch also partners with national chains such as Whole Foods, Cheesecake Factory, and even Red Lobster.

Lobster and Corn Chowder at Ale & Compass Restaurant

Seafood Watch says that while American and Canadian Lobster is not being overfished – typically a reason seafood may be red listed – the equipment used in lobster fishing threatens the already endangered North American Right Whale. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association says entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are the leading cause of injury for the right whale, and there are fewer than 360 of the species left on Earth.

©NOAA Fisheries | How right whales become entangled in fishing equipment

Some retailers — who had pledged not to use seafood with “Avoid” recommendations — have already taken lobster off the shelves. This includes meal-prep delivery services Blue Apron and HelloFresh, according to the Associated Press.

Suzy Badaracco, president of food trend forecasting firm Culinary Tides, said in an interview with DFB that she does not expect lobster to completely disappear from restaurant menus at Disney World or other fine dining restaurants.

“If lobster is one of the draws to that restaurant – there’s no way they’re going to cut it,” Badaracco said. 

Galactic Lobster Globe at Space 220

If the recommendation to avoid lobster were because of a health concern, that would be different, Badaracco said. But with a sustainability concern, there are other ways to continue to serve the dish that many consider a staple in fine dining.

“You might see restaurants pare back their lobster offerings — or only serve lobster for special occasions a few times a year,” she said. “But no one is going to cut lobster off the menu completely.”

And, so far, the paring back of lobster is what Disney has done. Lobster dishes have been removed from menus at Coral Reef, Space 220, and other Disney World restaurants. And a booth introduced at last year’s EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival featuring lobster dishes did not return in 2022. A staple at the Food and Wine Festival — the New England Lobster Roll — was replaced this year by a sandwich featuring crab.

Baked Whole Lobster Stuffed with Jumbo Crab at Space 220

But lobster remains on the menu at other Disney World restaurants, such as The Boathouse, Paddlefish, and Grand Floridian Cafe.

Badaracco likened the current lobster questions to those surrounding the fishing of tuna a decade ago, when it was revealed that tuna fisheries were harming dolphins. The industry adapted, she said, and restauranteurs and retailers were soon able to say their tuna was fished in a manner that did not harm dolphins. That was enough for consumers.

In this instance, Disney and other companies may decide to continue to serve lobster and try to help the endangered right whale through other means — such as donating to conservation projects, Badaracco said.

©NOAA Fisheries

A Maine Lobster fisheries representative said the industry is already working to protect the right whale.

In an interview with DFB, Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, said that the Maine Lobster Fishery also maintains sustainability certification from the Marine Stewardship Council, which she describes as an in-depth review that is peer-reviewed. She said that lobster fishermen have been working with NOAA for more than 20 years to make their methods and gear safer for the right whale.

“Maine fishermen are really proud of their efforts in sustainability. It’s discouraging for them when their efforts aren’t recognized,” LaCroix said.

Lobster Mac and Cheese at Nomad Lounge

Disney has not commented on the Seafood Watch “avoid” recommendation. We’ll continue to keep on eye on menu changes and new developments.

Lobster Is Disappearing From Disney World Menus. Here’s Why.

Are you planning a trip to Disney World soon? Brush up on your Disney tech by reading our step-by-step guide to using Disney Genie+. And check out our video below for the 20 Best Breakfasts in Disney World!

Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!

Do you expect Disney World to only serve sustainable seafood? Share your concerns in the comments!

The post Seafood Controversy: Will Disney Stop Serving Lobster? first appeared on the disney food blog.