Republican lawmakers in Maine are going after Whole Foods for its rebuke of the state’s signature seafood — Maine lobster.
Whole Foods stopped selling Gulf of Maine lobster at hundreds of its stores last year after a pair of sustainability organizations suspended lobster certifications over concerns the fishing gear could hurt endangered whales.
Maine officials have decried those actions — pointing out that no deaths of North Atlantic right whales have been linked to lobster gear.
Maine’s Senate Republican leader is now sponsoring a bill to strip Whole Foods from participation in the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program, which provided the grocer’s only store in Maine with a $36,671 reimbursement for 2021.
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Sen. Trey Stewart accused Whole Foods of blindly following “incorrect science” and giving Maine’s $1.7 billion lobster industry a “black eye.”
Whole Foods had no immediate comment.
The bill targets businesses that restrict or prevent the sale or distribution of any product that is legally produced, harvested or grown in Maine based on third-party certifications, bans or boycotts.
There’s bipartisan support for the bill. But the associate commissioner for tax policy told the Taxation Committee on Tuesday that he opposed the bill for several reasons, including concerns about its constitutionality.
The House Republican leader, Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, himself a lobster fisherman, called the attacks on lobster “an absolute joke.”
He said lobster fishermen over generations have set “the gold standard of sustainability on the planet, as far as I’m concerned.”
But the certifications were removed not because of the health of lobster but because the concern over right whales, which number about 340. The whales are vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships.