Whole Foods to stop selling Maine lobster

The company made the decision after two groups pulled their certification of Maine lobster
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:36 PM EST
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Whole Foods says it will stop selling Maine lobster caught since the Maine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch pulled their certifications of Maine lobster.

The certifications were pulled due to concerns over impacts on North Atlantic right whales.

The Council’s suspension of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery’s certificate will go into effect on Dec. 15.

Whole Foods
Whole Foods(Phillip Pessar / CC BY 2.0)

The company says it will still sell lobster that was purchased before the certification was pulled and will resume purchasing lobster caught in the Gulf of Maine when the MSC suspension is lifted or when the MBA Seafood Watch program rating is changed to green or yellow.

There is only one Whole Foods store in Maine, in Portland. On Tuesday, the store was selling lobster packaged by Maine company Luke’s Lobster as well as generic packaged frozen lobster tails.

In a statement to Maine’s Total Coverage, the company says, “As part of our commitment to responsible sourcing, we only sell wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council or rated either ‘Green’ or ‘Yellow’ by the MBA Seafood Watch program. These third-party verifications and ratings are critical to maintaining the integrity of our standards for all wild-caught seafood found in our seafood department.”

Maine lobster industry officials are frustrated by the move. “The fishermen have been complying with all the regulations that have been set forth, and this current issue is really about a flaw in the regulations,” said Marianne Lacroix, Executive Director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collective.

Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, and Governor Janet Mills released a joint statement reacting to the Whole Foods announcement saying they were disappointed and “deeply frustrated that the Marine Stewardship Council’s suspension of the lobster industry’s certificate of sustainability continues to harm the livelihoods of hardworking men and women up and down Maine’s coast.”

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative also says the decision by MSC is disappointing.

“It’s disappointing for the fishermen, who have working in good faith and following all the regulations for sustainability and to protect right whales,” said Marianne LaCroix, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

LaCroix says no right whale has been entangled in Maine fishing gear since 2004 and says the job of the industry is to now explain to the public and to vendors that the industry does not pose a risk to the whales.