Whole Foods Stops Selling Gulf of Maine Lobster

Nov. 30, 2022
The Marine Stewardship Council pulled certification from Maine lobsters over unresolved issues over protection for whales.

A leading seafood certification organization has withdrawn its approval from lobsters caught off the coast of Maine, with possible consequences for future sales.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MCS) suspended certification of lobster caught in the Gulf of Maine on Nov. 17. The issue is that a federal plan to regulate Gulf of Maine lobster fishing was invalidated by a court ruling in June. The plan was promulgated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, but U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that it did not provide sufficient protection for North Atlantic right whales, a species that has been officially listed as endangered since 1970.

Because no conservation plan for the right whale is officially in place, a third-party auditor used by the Marine Stewardship Council determined that it could no longer certify that whales were being adequately protected from Maine lobster fishermen. The concern is potential harm to the whales from netting and other equipment used to catch lobsters. The MSC then decertified Maine lobster.

As a result of the MSC’s action, Whole Foods announced that as of Dec. 15, it will stop purchasing lobsters caught in the Gulf of Maine. Whole Foods added that it will reconsider the action if the Maine fishing industry meets its sustainability standards.

The action was met with furious denunciation by Maine lobster fishermen, one of whom claimed on Fox News that not a single right whale has ever been proved to be killed by Maine fishing gear.

This item has been updated to more accurately reflect the regulatory situation.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

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