Lobster Season Shut Down In The Sound

The Hartford Courant

For the first time, lobster season in Long Island Sound will be shut down for most of the fall. From Sunday through Nov. 28, it will be illegal to trap lobsters there.

The move is a sad one for Connecticut's already struggling fishing industry, but it's necessary.

According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which approved the ban two years ago, the lobster population of the Sound has declined dramatically. In just 15 years, the catch here has dropped more than 90 percent.

The ban is an attempt to boost numbers by lowering the annual catch by 10 percent, although whether it will work is still up in the air. Lobstermen, who generally take a much smaller catch after Labor Day anyway, are divided on the question. Both recreational and commercial lobstering are involved.

Although several factors are said to contribute to the drop-off, the two mentioned most often by experts are rising water temperatures and pollution from herbicides and pesticides used on land. Some cite the Sound's higher temperatures for an increase in both lobster predators and shell disease, a bacteriological infection.

In addition, warmer temperatures here have led lobsters to migrate north, according to a Rutgers University ecologist.

Paradoxically, the unusual warmth of the ocean is said to have led to a population explosion among Maine lobsters last year, with dire effects for the industry there. According to Bloomberg.com, Maine's famed lobster industry is on "the brink of collapse" because oversupply has pushed the per-pound price so low. Competition from Canada is also a factor.

A longer-term solution is the refrain those concerned with the environment have been singing for years: Stop pollution, reduce pesticides, shrink humans' carbon footprint, and be more responsible stewards of both the land and the water.

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