President Joe Biden serving Maine lobster at his first state dinner would typically be celebrated here. Instead, it drew criticism from Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District.
Biden will serve butter-poached Maine lobster as part of a series of dishes from across the U.S. in a dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Thursday night. It comes in the middle of a fight between the fishery and the federal government.
Both lobstermen and their boosters in Maine’s high political offices have hammered federal regulations on the industry that are aimed at preserving the endangered right whale. An industry group with state backing has hired a former solicitor general to appeal a recent court ruling.
On Thursday, the Democratic governor tweeted she was proud Maine lobster could be served. But she called on Biden to recognize that Maine lobstermen wanted to fish without his administration “crushing them under the weight of burdensome, scientifically-questionable regulations.”
Golden, another Democrat who sided with Maine Republicans to say the Mills administration should lead its own lawsuit against the rules in October, launched the heaviest criticism at Biden.
“If the Biden White House can prioritize purchasing 200 Maine lobsters for a fancy dinner, [the president] should also take the time to meet with the Maine lobstermen his administration is currently regulating out of business,” Golden wrote in a tweet.
The president’s dinner choice showed he knew Maine had “the most sustainable lobster on the planet,” Maine Lobstering Union spokesperson Virginia Olsen said. But she called on him to label Maine lobster as safe, noting no right whale deaths had been attributed to Maine gear.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, instead swiped at the Amazon-owned supermarket chain Whole Foods, which announced last week that it would no longer purchase Gulf of Maine lobster after it lost its sustainability certification from a prominent fisheries group. That decision also drew criticism from Mills and the rest of Maine’s congressional delegation.
“If Maine lobster is good enough for the White House to serve, it’s good enough for every seafood retailer — including Whole Foods — to sell,” Collins tweeted.
Incoming Maine House Minority Leader Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, who is a lobsterman, struck a more conciliatory tone. He was happy to see Maine lobster served in the White House, saying it could reflect a change in administration policy.
“I don’t want to criticize somebody for doing the right thing,” Faulkingham said. “Maybe there’s going to be a turn here.”
The other two members of Maine’s congressional delegation — Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and independent Sen. Angus King — simply cheered Biden’s decision to serve lobster, with the latter saying Biden and Macron were supporting Maine lobstermen.
“There is no better meal than sustainable, delicious Maine [lobster] to represent our country on the world stage,” King wrote in a tweet.
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