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Connecticut Lobstermen See End to Catches in Long Island Sound

Richard Taylor
Creative Commons
Lobster traps in Mystic.

Fishermen in Long Island Sound won't be allowed to catch lobster for the next three months because of a fishing ban aimed at increasing population numbers.

In 1998, 3.7 million pounds of lobster were caught by commercial fishermen in in the Sound. Last year, that number fell nearly 97 percent, to around 120,000 pounds. The decline prompted the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interstate compact that manages coastal resources, to try to increase egg production in female lobsters. One aspect of that plan: catch reductions. 

"That plan mandated a 10 percent reduction in exploitation of lobster and this closure was calculated to achieve that reduction," said Mark Alexander, supervising fisheries biologist at Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

"Landings" are the portion of fisherman's catch that is brought ashore. DEEP says there's been a radical decline in catches in Long Island Sound since the late 1990s.
Credit Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
"Landings" are the portion of fisherman's catch that is brought ashore. DEEP says there's been a radical decline in catches in Long Island Sound since the late 1990s.

Alexander said pesticide pollution and water temperature variations are two things the state is examining as potential causes for the lobster's decline. "Waters off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts are also experiencing a decline in the abundance of lobster though not to the degree that we've seen in Long Island Sound," Alexander said. "Being an enclosed body of water, the Sound kind of warms up quicker than it does off the more open coastline of Rhode Island and Massachusetts."

Mike Theilerhas been fishing for lobster for 25 years. He doesn't think closing fishing for a few weeks will do much to help Long Island Sound's lobsters. "We buy a license that the state allows us to buy. We fish within the rules," he said. "Then at the end of the day, a lot of times they turn around and say, 'Well, you guys are over fishing.' Well guess what? We're playing by your rules."

Theiler said the decline of lobster has forced him to rethink his business and that he now also searches for sea scallops in Long Island Sound. "Personally, I don't want to be the last guy looking for the last lobster," Theiler said. "The economics of the fishery no longer work. So if you haven't diversified, shame on you."

DEEP said the Atlantic Fisheries Commission is still monitoring population numbers and those findings will determine the future course for any lobster fishing restrictions.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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