Whole Foods under fire after announcing Maine lobster to be pulled from store shelves nationwide
Maine politicians issued a blistering statement after Whole Foods announced the store would no longer sell lobsters caught off the coast of the New England state in response to environmental concerns that the fishing industry is allegedly threatening a rare whale.
“We are disappointed by Whole Foods’ decision and deeply frustrated that the Marine Stewardship Council’s suspension of the lobster industry’s sustainability certificate continues to harm the livelihoods of hardworking men and women on the Maine coast,” he said. wrote Maine Governor Janet Mills in a joint statement with Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden.
Whole Foods announced it would stop selling Gulf of Maine lobster in hundreds of its stores nationwide earlier this month. The company cited decisions by a pair of sustainability organizations that gained support from the U.S. lobster fishing industry.
The Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch recently withdrew their endorsements over concerns about the risks to rare North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear. Tangling with art is one of the biggest threats to whales.
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Political leaders in Maine, which has the nation’s largest lobster fishing industry, criticized Whole Foods’ decision, arguing that no right whales have died from Maine’s lobster craft and that the fishing community of the state has long worked to protect right whales.
“In a call to retailers just a few weeks ago, we outlined the facts: There has never been a right whale death attributed to the Maine lobster team; Maine lobstermen have a 150-year history of sustainability; and the Maine’s lobster community has consistently demonstrated its commitment to protecting right whales,” the governor and four other state leaders wrote.
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“Despite this, the Marine Stewardship Council, with retailers following suit, wrongly and blindly decided to follow the recommendations of misguided environmental groups instead of science. We strongly urge the Marine Stewardship Council and retailers to reconsider their potentially devastating decisions “.
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Meanwhile, environmentalists have praised sustainability organizations and Whole Foods for the moves.
Virginia Carter, Save America’s Wildlife campaign associate at Environment America’s Center for Research and Policy, said Whole Foods’ decision is an “important action to protect the highly threatened whale.”
“With fewer than 340 North Atlantic right whales in existence, the species is swimming toward extinction unless things turn around,” Carter said.
A Whole Foods representative told Fox News Digital that the chain will continue to sell lobsters that were caught in the Gulf of Maine under the Marine Stewardship Council’s previously active certification program or that were rated “green” or “yellow” by the MBA Seafood Watch program.
“We will stop buying Gulf of Maine lobster and resume when the MSC suspension is lifted or when the MBA Seafood Watch program rating changes to green or yellow,” the Whole Foods spokesperson said.
The grocery chain added in a statement that the Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch are “critical to maintaining the integrity of our standards for all wild-caught seafood found in our seafood department.”
“We continue to sell Gulf of Maine lobster in our stores that was procured while still under active MSC certification (prior to suspension) or with an active MBA yellow rating. We are closely monitoring this situation and are committed to working with suppliers, fisheries, and environmental advocacy groups as it develops,” the statement continues.
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Meal kit company HelloFresh was among other retailers to pledge to stop selling lobster in September after California-based Seafood Watch placed the American and Canadian lobster fisheries in its “red list” of seafood to avoid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.