Bidens to serve Maine lobster to Macron despite Whole Foods ban

Whole Foods announced a ban on the sale of Maine lobsters, citing a danger to North Atlantic right whales

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar,Gustaf Kilander
Thursday 01 December 2022 14:42 GMT
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American Osetra caviar, butter-poached lobster from Maine, beef, and California wines will be presented to French President Emmanuel Macron for a state dinner hosted by US President Joe Biden.

The Biden family and the Macrons will be part of a red, white, and blue-themed gathering at a pavilion set up on the South Lawn of the White House for the first state visit hosted by the American president since he entered the office in early 2021.

The menu, released in advance of the dinner on Thursday, showed that the 300-400 guests will dine on shallot marmalade, a selection of cheese from three different states, potatoes, beef, and wash it down with wines from California.

Newton “Unfiltered” Chardonnay and Anakota “Knights Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a California sparkling wine with French roots, Roederer Estate Brut Rose, will be served to the gathering. For dessert, the menu has been fixed for orange chiffon cake and roasted pears with citrus sauce along with “creme fraiche ice cream”.

The inclusion of the Maine lobster, just after Whole Foods announced its decision to stop selling the delicacy over threats to endangered whales, has raised eyebrows.

The grocery chain said it would stop selling lobster caught in the Gulf of Maine from next month over concerns about endangered North Atlantic right whales getting entangled in fishing gear. Scientists estimate fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales remain in existence, largely due to human activity.

The company's decision comes on the heels of changes in sustainability ratings for Maine lobster fisheries by separate third-party seafood monitoring groups.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) suspended its certification of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery earlier in November after the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch Program downgraded Maine lobsters to its red list.

Whole Foods said the decision to stop buying the lobsters was taken to uphold its responsibility to sourcing standards established in 2012.

They mandate that wild-caught seafood sold in hundreds of stores must be from fisheries certified by the MSC or rated “yellow” or “green” by the MBA.

“These third-party verifications and ratings are critical to maintaining the integrity of our standards for all wild-caught seafood found in our seafood department,” the company said in a statement.

Whole Foods will stop procuring Maine lobsters from 15 December, but sell the remainder of its supply, the grocery chain said.

The contentious ban has sparked an outcry from Maine’s elected officials and the lobster industry.

Four members of Maine's congressional delegation criticised the decision in a strongly worded statement.

“We are disappointed by Whole Foods’ decision and deeply frustrated that the Marine Stewardship Council’s suspension of the lobster industry’s certificate of sustainability continues to harm the livelihoods of hardworking men and women up and down Maine’s coast,” said senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, along with Maine governor Janet Mills.

Mr Golden, a Democrat, took to Twitter to further criticised the administration.

“If the Biden White House can prioritize purchasing 200 Maine lobsters for a fancy dinner, @POTUS should also take the time to meet with the Maine lobstermen his administration is currently regulating out of business,” Mr Golden wrote on Wednesday evening.

The tweet was in addition to earlier criticism of Mr Biden from Mr Golden. On 5 October, Mr Golden sent a letter to the president outlining the “repercussions of his failure to protect Maine lobsterman as promised and urging him to oppose the right whale conservation measures currently proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” according to a press release.

“Given what we know — and what the data clearly demonstrates — about the low risk of Maine’s lobster fishery relative to other activities in right whale habitat, I cannot comprehend how you can stand idly by and not oppose in the strongest terms a proposal that has the potential to destroy thousands of livelihoods, hundreds of coastal communities, and the economic backbone of our state and the New England region,” Mr Golden wrote in the letter. “Your complicity thus far is a slap in the face to thousands of working people who are confronting the uncertainty of whether or not they can continue to provide for their families, that their communities will survive, and that their children will be able to continue Maine’s long-standing lobstering heritage.”

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