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Whole Foods temporarily drops gourmet grocery item, cites environmental concerns

Last week, the Marine Stewardship Council revoked its sustainability certification for the Gulf of Maine fishery, prompting Whole Foods to pause its purchases of Maine lobster. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Whole Foods has put a temporary stop to purchasing lobster from Maine, following the Marine Stewardship Council’s decision to suspend its sustainability certification for the Gulf of Maine fishery.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s decision also came shortly after the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch program assigned American lobsters from the Gulf of Maine a “Red” rating, recommending that consumers avoid them for the same reason.

“As part of our commitment to responsible sourcing, we only sell wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or rated either ‘Green’ or ‘Yellow’ by the MBA Seafood Watch program,” a Whole Foods spokesperson wrote in a statement shared with Nexstar. “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 Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC, is a London-based nonprofit which establishes standards for sustainable fishing. Last week, the MSC revoked its sustainability certification for the Gulf of Maine fishery, which has produced more lobster than any other state for three decades, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The MSC cited risks to the possible entanglement of marine mammals — specifically, the right whale — as its reason for suspending the fishery’s certification.

The Gulf of Maine fishery was recently audited in September 2022, following a federal court ruling that determined its previous sustainability regulations were no longer sufficient, MSC said in a press release. During the audit, the Gulf of Maine fishery was found not to be in compliance with the new regulations.

The suspension officially goes into effect Dec. 15, 2022.

Whole Foods, meanwhile, will continue to sell Gulf of Maine lobster that was previously purchased from the fishery prior to its MSC certification being suspended, or before the MBA Seafood Watch moved the fishery’s lobster into a “Red” rating. A representative for the chain added that the company is still sourcing lobster from locations outside of Maine.

“We are closely monitoring this situation and are committed to working with suppliers, fisheries, and environmental advocacy groups as it develops,” a Whole Foods spokesperson said.

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