PETA sign at Jetport

A traveler walks past a new PETA sign at the Portland International Jetport as he leaves the ticketing area Thursday. “Ridiculous,” he said aloud after spotting the sign. He declined to say more when asked to share his thoughts. Kelley Bouchard/Staff Writer

Four new signs at Portland International Jetport are upsetting some Mainers, including those who depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

The advertisements, sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, say “Save the Whales: Don’t Eat Fish” and show what appears to be a replica of a whale in plastic netting. In smaller lettering, they also say “Fishing gear kills 300,000 whales and dolphins annually” and “Go vegan.”

The signs – two the size of a large poster and two closer to billboard size – stand out in stark contrast to other advertisements and vendors in the jetport that promote enjoying lobster and other products of Maine’s heritage industries.

The signs have triggered lively debate on social media among people who rely on fishing and related industries to make ends meet, especially when many businesses are struggling to survive during the pandemic, including Maine’s renowned restaurant scene.

Jason Loring, owner of Nosh and Slab restaurants in Portland, said he understands the need for more sustainable fishing practices and wider concerns about animal treatment, but he sees the PETA signs as “an attack on people who are just trying to keep the lights on.”

“It just doesn’t seem to be a very good welcome to Portland,” Loring said. “I understand the sentiment. I love animals. But as much as I want people to care about fish in the sea, I want them to care about the people of Maine and the people who are just trying to make a go of it.”


PETA sign at Jetport

A traveler arriving Thursday at the Portland International Jetport walks past a new PETA sign that is upsetting some Mainers, including those who depend on fishing for their livelihoods. Kelley Bouchard/Staff Writer

As Maine restaurants have fought to stay open during the pandemic, economic and environmental pressures have intensified on the state’s fisheries. The Gulf of Maine continues to warm, fish stocks dwindle and efforts mount to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale. At the same time, Maine lobster landings brought in a record $725 million in 2021, but credit goes to higher prices for one of the smallest hauls in the past decade.

Jamie Goddard, owner of The Rope Guru in Westbrook, posted a photo of the PETA sign on his Facebook page with a sarcasm-tinged comment. His company supplies specialty ropes to many Maine industries, including fishermen.

“Welcome to Maine – Portland Jetport,” Goddard wrote. “Don’t eat the haddock and Lobster. Please eat a fern instead. Thank you Maine tourism. This is so sad.”

Some questioned why jetport officials allowed the signs to be displayed in terminal.

Assistant Airport Director Zachary Sundquist said the signs were purchased through Clear Channel Airports, which has exclusive marketing rights within the terminal.

All marketing is reviewed by officials with the city of Portland, which owns the airport. The signs were posted Sunday and will be displayed through March 6.


“PETA does this every few years,” Sundquist said. “There is broad consideration of First Amendment rights regarding free speech, short of targeting an individual.”

The last time PETA purchased advertising at the jetport was in 2018, at the start of the Maine Lobster Festival. The sign back then showed a lobster on a pink background. In its claws was a sign that said “I’m ME, Not Meat. See the individual. Go Vegan.”

PETA paid $3,000 for that monthlong campaign. The current signs likely cost a similar amount, Sundquist said.

“We’ve heard from many people who are disappointed with the ad,” Sundquist said. “As much as one advertiser is pro-Maine, there is a right to the alternative view.”

At the jetport Thursday, many people walked past the PETA signs without noticing them, preoccupied by cell phones, travel plans or conversations with fellow passengers.

One man scoffed when he saw the billboard-sized sign as he left the ticketing area. “Ridiculous,” he said aloud. He declined to elaborate for this article.

In the arrival area, the PETA sign is next to an ad for the University of Maine Black Bears that says “The Legacy Continues.” Nearby signs promote the University of New England and paddleboarding on Casco Bay.

Ken and Shirley Sampson of Belmont, Massachusetts, stopped to look at the PETA sign while waiting for a friend who was flying in from Washington, D.C., for a skiing getaway at Shawnee Peak.

“I happen to love fish,” Ken Sampson said. “I can see the need to improve fishing gear to avoid bycatch, but they don’t want us to eat anything. I do love my vegetables, but I don’t think they’re going to convince me to go vegan.”

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