© 2023 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

GOP introduce bill aimed at punishing Whole Foods for recent ban of Maine lobster

Nicole Ogrysko
Maine Public
Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewark, R-Aroostook, described the plans for new legislation intended to punish Whole Foods and others at a press conference outside Hallowell Seafood & Produce on Dec. 6, 2022.

Republican state lawmakers are introducing legislation they say will counter recent blows to Maine's lobster industry.

The proposal would ban grocery chain Whole Foods — which recently paused sales of Maine lobster over concerns about the industry's threat to endangered right whales — from participating in tax programs that benefit retail stores.

Specifically, the legislation would prohibit any business from participating in two state business equipment tax reimbursement and exemption programs that have banned or restricted the sale of any Maine-produced goods over third-party certifications.

"And we'll be working with other New England legislators to encourage them to take action as well," Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said Tuesday at a press conference outside Hallowell Seafood & Produce.

Republican lawmakers said they'll also ask Maine's attorney general to investigate the Marine Stewardship Council and the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, which have both withdrawn their sustainability certifications for Maine lobster.

"Make no mistake; this is war," House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, a fisherman from Winter Harbor, said. "This is not just a war on lobster fishing. This is a war on workers. This is a war on family values. This is a war on environmentalism. This is a war on science. And this is a war on common sense."

Virginia Olsen, a fifth-generation fisherman who works with the Maine Lobstering Union, said she sees the MSC decision as an attack on the state.

"With MSC, they chose the Maine lobstering industry. They didn't choose Canada. They didn't choose Massachusetts. They chose the brand, which is the Maine lobster."

The proposal from state Republicans, Faulkingham said, is part of a comprehensive effort to keep the public's attention on the Maine lobster industry. He teased potential future actions from Maine's federal delegation.

Federal regulators have two years to write new guidelines that are supposed to further reduce the fishery's risk to right whales.