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Federal money approved to remove 'ghost fishery' from Long Island Sound

Lobster trap being pulled up from the ocean.
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Close up of lobster fisherman hauling trap out of Atlantic ocean off coast of Maine.

Federal funding has been approved to start removing some of the hundreds of thousands of derelict lobster traps on the floor of the Long Island Sound.

Jason Patlis, president and CEO of the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, said this “ghost fishery” developed after Long Island Sound’s lobster industry collapsed in the late 1990s.

“There are a lot of abandoned lobster traps that were just given up because no lobsters were coming in,” Patlis said. “They remain active as lobster traps, and they continue to collect marine life of all kinds.”

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is now leading a coalition of lobstermen, academics and environmentalists who will soon begin removing thousands of abandoned lobster traps from the Sound.

The work is funded by $569,000 included in an omnibus spending bill recently signed by President Biden.

According to the Associated Press, the goal is to eventually hire local charter fishing vessels and fishermen to collect an initial 3,000 traps over two years.

“A lot of the work will be done by fishers themselves,” Patlis said. “We’ll be paying for the vessels, we’ll be paying for their expertise and their work on the water to do the retrievals.”

Patlis said he expects his team to start pulling out lobster traps later this fall and winter.

“It allows us to get significant marine debris out of the water,” Patlis said, “and begin to see some of the fisheries and the sea floor of Long Island Sound return to ecological health.”

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

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 by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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