Whole Foods ends sale of Maine lobster, fishermen respond

Whole Foods has announced it will no longer sell Maine lobster in its stores around the country.

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The company, which is owned by Amazon, cited decisions by two sustainability organizations to take away endorsements of the U.S. lobster fishing industry, The Associated Press reported.

Maine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch both said there were concerns related to the North Atlantic right whales, which are rare, and fishing gear. Whales are threatened by getting entangled with fishing gear, the AP reported.

The New York Times said the way lobstermen catch the crustaceans has not changed much since the 1800s. Fishermen use traps, also called pots, that have bait inside and are lowered to the seafloor. They are connected to a floating buoy by a rope that can entangle whales, preventing them from surfacing or diving deep enough to find food.

Seafood Watch is part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium based in California, the Times reported last month. It gives businesses scientific guidance about what seafood should be sold.

Along with American lobster, the group has suggested that some species of crab and fish are on its “red list” because of how the fishing techniques used to catch the seafood could impact North American right whales, the Times reported.

Whole Foods said the decision would help protect the whales, of which only 340 exist. The company said it will continue to monitor the population and will work with suppliers, fisheries and environmental advocacy groups, the AP reported.

But not everyone is supporting Whole Foods’ decision.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills and the state’s four members of Congress said, “Despite this (stewardship and protection whales by Maine fishermen), the Maine Stewardship Council, with retailers following suit, wrongly and blindly decided to follow the recommendations of misguided environmental groups rather than science,” the AP reported.

Lobster companies and lawmakers have also fired back, saying that Seafood Watch’s announcement is unfair since they have complied with state and federal laws that protect the whales, the Times reported last month.

Meal kit company Hello Fresh announced it would stop selling lobster in September.

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