In a letter sent to the director of the Portland International Jetport, Maine Governor Janet Mills says she would like an ad created by animal rights group PETA removed.
The banner ad, which is on a wall above a busy escalator, shows a whale inside of a fishing net. It reads “save the whales,” “don’t eat fish, “go vegan,” and urges passengers to avoid seafood.
That sentiment does not sit well with Mills and other lawmakers, given that Maine has a fishing industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
In her letter, Mills says in part:
"This banner not only falsely portrays an industry with a longstanding commitment to responsible harvesting practices, including the protection of endangered Right Whales, but it also insults hardworking Maine people and undermines a vital and iconic sector of our state’s economy. Frankly, it flies in the face of everything we want visitors to know and love about Maine...
"I do not doubt that the Jetport is committed to showcasing and supporting our state’s people, our economy, and our industries, and I appreciate your ongoing work to that end. My understanding is that Clear Channel Airports has exclusive jurisdiction over the marketing rights within the airport terminal and that marketing materials are reviewed by Portland City Officials. I ask that the necessary officials review the appropriateness of these banners, which I strongly believe should be removed and replaced with materials that promote Maine as the great place it is."
Jessica Grondin, a spokesperson for the City of Portland, which owns the Jetport, said it was “reviewing” Mills’ letter.
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She confirmed that PETA had purchased the ad space for two weeks, from February 19 to March 5, but city officials were not prepared to comment on the matter further.
Other lawmakers, like Maine State Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Dist. 134, are not only upset, but have urged people on Twitter to "contact the Portland Jetport and tell them to stop taking money from advertisers who seek to damage Maine."
Passengers from Maine at the Jetport on Monday, were surprised to see the ad in such a prominent location but were less sure it should be removed entirely.
"I was shocked to see that’s there because I eat fish, this is Maine," said Mutima Peter of Westbrook, Maine, suggesting the ad be placed somewhere else.
"It doesn’t mean I minimize those who put it over there but we are in Maine, I think they have to understand," he explained.
"Of course I’m going I’m going to eat fish, I love seafood and I love Maine seafood," said Janice St. Cry, of Biddeford, Maine.
"I do love whales and I care about whales but I still think people should eat fish," she added.
PETA sent NECN/NBC 10 Boston response to a request for a statement about the ad, saying in part, "PETA’s jetport ads may have struck a nerve, but it takes a lot more nerve to defend the killing of whales and other sea life."
The ad appearing at the Jetport comes at a time when Maine’s seafood industry and the state government are already in tense disputes with the federal government over regulations to protect endangered right whales.
Some of the disagreements have already resulted in court battles.