Fishermen Say Local Lobster Industry Taking Massive Hit

HUNTINGTON, NY (CBSNewYork) – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is warning against eating shellfish from some Long Island waters.

They say your life could depend on it because of the chance it is infected with a potentially fatal toxin.

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And as CBS 2’s Jay Dow has learned, this warning impacts much more than what you’re eating for dinner.

WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reports: Don’t Eat The Snails

Peter Mattiace is a third generation commercial lobster fisherman and is afraid, with the way business has been going, he will be the last.

“We’re going out, and were barely catching anything. And now, you’re not even allowed to bring them in,” Mattiace said.

Mattiace said Long Island’s generally declining lobster population is in serious trouble now that the species has been added to a growing list of shellfish deemed off limits for eating by state environmental officials.

The warning states it is currently not safe to eat lobster, blue claw crab, conch, and other shellfish, because they could be infected with a fatal neurotoxin, due to problematic seasonal algae blooms in the water.

The affected areas, according to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, include the areas around Huntington and Southampton — both in Suffolk County.

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The ban is affecting more than appetites. Fishing boats in Huntington Harbor are idle and lobster traps are stacked and out of use. It’s all bad news for the local economy.

“It’s basically forced fisherman to go to other options,” John Marino said.

Marino, a local fishing captain, said morale around the harbor is sinking fast.

“You can see all the boats that aren’t working. You can see all the traps that are stacked up behind you there that are not being put in the water,” Marino said. “If the fishermen aint fishing, there’s no gas being pumped; you got no sandwiches being bought in the deli; you have no ice to ice your fish.”

The situation is worse for career lobster fisherman Mattiace.

“There’s basically zero income coming in from the lobstering,” Mattiace said.

He said he’s had no choice but to give up on trying to earn a living on the water and now works as security guard.

The shellfish ban, which went into effect earlier this month, also includes clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops.

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Are you worried about the shellfish in the waters off Long Island? Sound off below in our comments section.