WASHINGTON (AP) — The lobster featured on the menu for Thursday’s state dinner comes with caviar, squash ravioli and a side brimming with controversy.

Maine officials would normally be delighted to have their state’s most famous export featured at such a high-profile White House event. Instead, they are turning red and seething with anger over what they feel is a White House seafood decision to serve lobster while pushing through federal regulations that they say could kill the industry.

«If the Biden White House can prioritize buying 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.» tweeted Maine Democratic Representative Jared Golden.

Frustration with crustaceans is virtually unanimous among Maine politicians, who have banded together to fight what they see as an existential threat to one of the state’s biggest industries and most iconic cultural landmarks.

«This is an issue that our federal delegation and state legislators, regardless of political party or ideology, are united on,» said Genevieve McDonald, a Maine lobster boat captain who served two terms as a Democrat in the State House of Representatives representing a group of islanders. communities «It’s not just our economy, it’s our cultural identity and our sense of place.»

A lobster raises its claws after being caught off Spruce Head, Maine on August 31, 2021. File Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The lobster industry is feeling the pinch of concern over lobster’s impact on the endangered right whale, whose population is estimated to be fewer than 370, prompting new federal regulation and calls for boycotts.

Whole Foods announced last month that it would stop selling Maine lobster after two consumer-focused environmental watchdogs, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the London-based Marine Stewardship Council, downgraded its rating. the fishery

Maine lobstermen have long prided themselves on sustainability and argue that concern for right whales is misplaced.

«I’m glad President Biden and his state dinner guests had the opportunity to enjoy Maine lobster,» said Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. tweeted. “I also urge him and his Administration to recognize that all Maine lobstermen want is the opportunity to continue to provide this product for people to enjoy without being crushed by the federal government under the weight of burdensome regulations. and scientifically questionable.

There are no recorded whale deaths due to the Maine lobster crew, they say, and the last recorded entanglement with fishing lines was 18 years ago. Some lobstermen who fish Maine waters every day say they have never seen a right whale.

«If Maine lobster is good enough to be served by the White House, it’s good enough to be carried by all seafood retailers, including Whole Foods.» tweeted Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins.

The White House shipped 200 live lobsters from Maine on Tuesday, which will be poached in butter and served with a dollop of American caviar to French President Emmanuel Macron and 300-400 other guests at President Joe Biden’s first state dinner.

White House executive chef Cris Comerford told reporters Wednesday that they wanted to «honor our Maine lobstermen» who rushed to fill the large order.

“They should put their politics where their mouths are,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute. «The administration should make its policy consistent with its culinary preferences.»

The Office of the First Lady, which oversees preparations for the state dinner, did not respond to a request for comment.