Maine Lobstermen Protest Portland Whole Foods’ Decision to Boycott Lobster

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Mainers from across the state braved icy temperatures and gathered outside Whole Foods in Portland on Monday afternoon to protest the nation-wide, upscale supermarket’s decision to “pause” its purchasing of Maine lobster. This effective boycott of Maine’s best-known export strikes at the livelihoods of over 5,000 Mainers directly employed in the lobster-fishery as well as thousands more on the processing and distribution ends of the business.

Last week, the Maine Wire reported that Republicans in the state legislature are looking at ways to punish the company for its slap in the face to the state that hosts one of its stores in Portland. Often, businesses that are seen as desirable are afforded tax breaks and other incentives to come to Maine, and legislators are reviewing ways to send a message to the company after it buckled under pressure from the London-based Marine Stewardship Council and the Monterey, California-based Seafood Watch, both of which recently “red-listed” Maine lobster and alleged that the fishery is non-sustainable.

“The Maine lobster industry is the gold-standard of sustainability,” House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) said in addressing the demonstrators. A lobsterman since the age of three, Faulkingham called the allegations that lobster-fishing threatens the endangered right whale “totally false,” and stated that the right whale population has actually grown in recent years.

Together with Faulkingham, representatives Dick Campbell (R-Orrington and Bucksport), Dick Bradstreet (R-Vassalboro), Jim Thorne (R-Carmel), Jack Ducharme (R-Madison), and others joined the protest and spoke briefly about the disastrous impact bans like Whole Foods – coupled with actions by federal regulators like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to restrict where, when and how lobstermen can fish – will have on small business around the state.

“There has not been an entanglement of a right whale in lobster gear since 2004, and even then the whale was released without harm,” rally organizer Gina LeDuc-Kuntz said, adding “I’m not sure there has been a single whale killed by Maine lobstermen ever.” Like Faulkingham and other speakers, LeDuc-Kuntz pointed out that the underlying pretexts for banning and otherwise shutting down the iconic fishery appear to be manufactured.

Several young men also entering the trade spoke at the rally, and said they are harming no one and their future is at stake.

Rally participants also paraded through downtown Portland, where many passers-by honked, waved or gave thumbs-up in support. Faulkingham and Thorne recently traveled to Washington, DC to urge U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to defend the industry from what is increasingly looking like a war on lobster by environmental extremists and their sympathizers in the federal bureaucracy.

Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden hosted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to a state dinner at the White House where Maine lobster was served. Jared Golden (D-ME), the Second District congressman called the move hypocritical and said the president ought to meet face-to-face with the lobstermen whose lives his administration is destroying.

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