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Source: ConnecticutPlus.com

CCE: Don't punish the victims, address the problem


Posted: July 24, 2012
Originally Published: July 23, 2012

Guilford, CT - Members of the CT Commercial Lobstermen Association, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and elected leaders are calling on Congress, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to take action to address the root causes of the Long Island Sound (LIS) lobster die-off and stop imposing harsh restrictions on Connecticut’s commercial lobster industry.

Poor water quality and warmer water temperatures are to blame for the lobster die-off, not the lobster industry. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has continually placed harsh restrictions on CT and NY commercial lobstermen, stifling a once flourishing industry. Now lobstermen are launching a media campaign with a pointed message: “stop poisoning our estuary and leave us alone.”

“Continuing to punish the lobstermen with restrictions doesn’t get at the root cause of the lobster population decline,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We don’t ban our farmers from the land, why are we banning our lobstermen from the sea? Our federal leaders need to offer solutions for the lobstermen by restoring the water quality and protecting habitat in Long Island Sound, not putting our lobstermen out of business.”

“The state and federal governments need to stop constantly putting regulations on us without offering solutions,” said Nick Crismale of the CT Commercial Lobster Association (CCLA). “The only help we’re getting from them is helping to put us right out of business.”

Connecticut’s commercial lobster industry has been at the foundation of Connecticut’s maritime culture for generations, and has been a meaningful contributor to the $8.5 billion generated by the Long Island Sound every year. But now, there are fewer than two dozen fulltime lobstermen from Connecticut working the Sound, and the harvests have dwindled severely in recent years. In 2003, the commercial lobster fishery in LIS yielded over 3.5 million lbs. of lobster, representing a major decrease in production from the over 6.5 million lbs. yielded on average before the die-off began in 1998. In 2011, that harvest plummeted to less than 145,000 lbs., partially due to strict limitations imposed on the industry by the ASMFC. In 2010, ASMFC even proposed implementing a five year moratorium on trapping lobster.

Congress has failed to reauthorize the Long Island Sound Stewardship and Restoration Act for the last two years, consistently cut funding for sewage treatment infrastructure through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), and have decreased funding for critical Long Island Sound restoration programs. As a result, restoration in the Long Island Sound has lagged.

“We need to do everything we can to restore lobster levels in the Sound,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “We all know some of the ways we can improve lobster habitat, including preservation and restoration projects and improvements to wastewater and storm water treatment. We need to continue to fund the restoration efforts for Long Island Sound that help protect the environment and economy of the Sound.”

“The widespread Long Island Sound lobster loss threatens a key Connecticut industry and resource of regional economic importance,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “A strong spirit of stewardship across state borders has allowed us to make great strides over the past two decades, but we must forge ahead. Studying and mapping the Sound and implementing the action items of the SoundVision Action Plan will yield a healthier and more robust fishing and shellfish habitat. The federal government must take a leadership role and provide aid to our beleaguered lobstermen while also being a strong partner in ongoing state efforts to study the causes of the decline in Long Island lobster catches. Pesticide and fertilizer runoff – prime suspects in the lobster loss – should remain a focus of efforts to combat contamination.”

"The health of Long Island Sound is key to sustaining the $8.5 billion industry the Sound supports,” said State Rep. Patricia Widlitz (D-Branford/Guilford). “CT continues to contribute millions of dollars to clean water projects, but we need action from the federal government. Concerns remain on the impact of pesticides on the dying lobster population, hypoxia in the western part of the Sound, and the viability of sewage treatment plants. It is essential that these issues are addressed immediately to prevent more damage to our economy and to protect the public health."

“If government wants to save jobs, they can start with the lobstermen,” concluded Esposito.