Republican leaders in the Maine House and Senate are taking aim at those who target the state’s iconic lobster industry by introducing legislation to repeal tax exemptions on equipment for companies that “red-list,” or otherwise boycott the products of Maine industry, they said in a joint press conference at the state capitol Tuesday.
Together with this bill, another legislative initiative calls on the state to restore Maine’s sovereignty out to the 12-mile mark offshore. Currently waters beyond three miles are considered federal domain.
“We shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for permission from the Feds to protect our lobster industry,” Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) said when a reporter took off his mask to ask him whether Maine has jurisdiction to assert sovereignty over what the federal government considers its territory.
House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor), himself a lobster boat captain, said the state needs to resist the encroachment on what previously has been considered Maine’s own waters. He said the temporary moratorium Congress enacted as part of a larger spending bill was just that — temporary.
“Now Feds are over-regulating, they’re going to make lobster fishing in federal waters illegal in six years from now,” said Faulkingham.
As a lobsterman, Faulkingham has been a forceful opponent of measures to box in where Maine lobstermen can fish and to and saddle them with new gear requirements in recent years.
“This should not be a partisan issue,” Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook) said. He credited Maine’s senior U.S. Senator Susan Collins with getting the six years delay on the latest round of National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rules limiting the fishery.
Stewart and Rep. Jim Thorne (R-Carmel) noted that LD 191, the bill to strip tax credits from companies that boycott Maine lobster, would apply to Whole Foods in Portland, but it is also covers all Maine products including the potato crop and timber industry.
Whole Foods is an “overpriced yuppie chain of grocery stores that does not represent the state of Maine,” Stewart said, an escalation of Republican attacks on the national food retailer belonging to Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.
Faulkingham and Thorne participated in a protest demonstration outside Whole Foods’ Portland store in December. Then the store announced it would pause its sale of Maine lobsters because they’d been “red-listed” as not sustainable by the California-based Seafood Watch.
The red-listing campaign against the Maine lobster began with two environmentalists groups, one from California, the other from London.
The liberal Seafood Watch, a project of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, added the lobster to its “red list” in September.
Later, the Marine Stewardship Council suspended its certification of the crustacean.
Large corporations like Whole Foods use these certifications to inform what products they’ll offer to customers.
The legislative branch needs to be doing more tell lobsterman “we have your back,” Thorne said.
Sen. Marianne Moore (R-Washington) pointed out that Canada, which neighbors her district, regulates its fishery far less and repeated the finding that Canadian ships are responsible for the entanglements of right whales, which NOAA is purportedly trying to prevent with its burdensome regulations.
“The underlying math is wrong,” she said, adding it is based on faulty data which means the red-listing is in fact ‘misinformation.’”