The menu for President Joe Biden's glitzy state dinner Thursday night has embroiled the White House in a simmering controversy over Maine's signature culinary offering.
The state's lobstermen have been leading the charge against new federal government regulations aimed at saving endangered North Atlantic right whales from getting tangled in fishing gear. And recently, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and the Marine Stewardship Council declared lobster unsustainable, which led to Whole Foods to stop selling Maine lobster.
Against that backdrop, the menu for Thursday's state dinner, for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, leads with butter-poached Maine lobster, served along American caviar, squash ravioli and a tarragon sauce.
At a preview event, White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford reserved a special a shout-out for Maine's lobster workers.
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"They had to ship 200 live lobsters to us yesterday morning," she said.
The preview event left some Maine politicians steamed, perhaps none more than Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, who tweeted that Biden should "take the time to meet with the Maine lobstermen his administration is currently regulating out of business."
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, and Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, also used the moment to urge the lifting of federal regulations. Collins is listed on the guest list.
Whole Foods' decision to stop selling lobster drew immediate criticism in Maine, which is home to the U.S.'s largest lobster fishing industry. Mills and all four members of its congressional delegation last month released a statement saying that the Marine Stewardship Council's decision to suspend its certification of Gulf of Maine lobster came despite years of stewardship and protection of whales by Maine fishermen.
“Despite this, the Marine Stewardship Council, with retailers following suit, wrongly and blindly decided to follow the recommendations of misguided environmental groups rather than science,” Mills and the delegation said.
Whole Foods was not the first retailer to take lobster off the menu over sustainability concerns. HelloFresh, the meal kit company, was among numerous retailers to pledge to stop selling lobster in September after California-based Seafood Watch placed American and Canadian lobster fisheries on its “red list” of seafoods to avoid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.