Whole Foods No Longer Selling One Of Its Most Popular Offerings

Whole Foods will no longer be selling Maine lobster because of ethical concerns about harvesting and overfishing.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

lobster whole foods

Love them or hate them, everyone has a strong opinion about Whole Foods, the leading natural grocery store. The company regularly makes news headlines for goofy things (like selling pricey asparagus water). But this time, it is making waves for a whole new reason. They won’t be selling Maine lobster as part of their offerings thanks to recent reports about them being now at risk of over-fishing and not meeting ethical standards.

If you have wandered the aisles of your local Whole Foods Market, you may have noticed various ratings at the meat and seafood counters. All the numbers and colors may feel a bit confusing. However, the intention is to help guide consumers concerned about purchasing ethically and sustainably procured food. 

At Whole Foods, the seafood department partners with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). It is an independent organization dedicated to monitoring the sustainability and ethical harvest of wild-caught seafood. Companies with the MSC certification meet the strictest standards for harvesting and processing seafood.

“Then, last week, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) suspended its certification of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery effective December 15, 2022,” according to Food&Wine. News of the shocking suspension came after a legal battle about protecting endangered right whales. And the MSC is not the only organization to slap a warning on Gulf of Maine lobsters.

In September, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch moved the lobsters to their red list. Its spokesperson said there is “a risk to overfished or at-risk species, including endangered North Atlantic right whales.” And that, “bycatch management is rated ineffective for all pot and set gillnet fisheries operating within the North Atlantic right whale’s range because current management measures do not go far enough to mitigate entanglement risks and promote recovery of the species.” 

After the double whammy, Whole Foods announced it would no longer purchase or sell Maine lobster. However, the company added a caveat to that news. It will continue to sell through existing stock purchased under the MSC certification. 

According to Whole Foods, it had to cease the sale of Maine lobster due to its sustainability commitment. The company works with third-party organizations to ensure the meat and seafood it purchases meet the strictest quality standards. It plans to monitor the situation and reverse the decision when appropriate. 

Losing the business of Whole Foods is a devastating blow to the fishery, especially as we head into the heart of the holiday season. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) insists that the fishery is in compliance with the latest regulations. But it is still in a legal battle over the right whales. 

The MLMC spokeswoman, Marianne LaCroix, is adamant that the organization should remain MSC certified. She said, “In their investigation on the Maine lobster fishery’s risk to right whales, independent auditors from MRAG Americas found that Maine’s lobster fishery is unlikely to cause harm to right whales, mainly because of the very limited overlap between rope in the Maine fishery and right whale habitat. We appreciate MSC’s partnership and transparency and are committed to working together to restore our blue label certification as we strive to bring to market our iconic and beloved product.”

But for now, Whole Foods shoppers will have to do without their beloved Maine lobster. Hopefully, the issues will soon resolve. And both the fishery and the right whales will come out victorious.