NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The lobster population in the Long Island Sound is at a record low — so says a multi-state commission that will soon make changes to how and when lobsters can be harvested from the sound.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, lobstermen from Connecticut to Long Island warn this could be the end of their struggling industry.
At Northport Fish And Lobster Company, the tanks are filled with fresh lobsters, but not from the nearby Long Island Sound.
“Most of our lobsters are coming from Maine and Canada right now because all the lobsters have been dying for the last 10 years,” chef Brett Kaplan explained.
Northport Harbor once buzzed with dozens of lobster boats, but now has just a handful. Most of the twenty lobstermen left harvesting the sound from Long Island and Connecticut gathered in East Setauket to tell New York state regulators that tighter restrictions will be the last straw in an already decimated industry.
“You’re sacrificing the lobstermen for the lobsters. They get paid to manage the fisheries and are doing it at our expense,” lobsterman and Northport Mayor George Doll said.
“We will be done. Lobster fishing in Long Island sound will be no more, it will be a distant memory and it’s unacceptable,” lobsterman Mike Kalaman added.
The meeting was held to come up with the least painful way to increase lobster egg production in the sound. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has proposed to accomplish that goal with new restrictions on either the size of the lobsters that can be harvester, months of the season, or number of traps.
It’s an answer to record low numbers of lobster stock.
“It seems to be maybe a climate related issue because lobsters don’t like warm water and Long Island Sound, we are seeing a dramatic increase, maybe 95 percent or more, fewer lobsters than there were even a decade ago,” NYS DEC Director, Marine Resources, James Gilmore said.
Lobstermen said the restrictions are unnecessary since Superstorm Sandy flushed the sound.
“We have seen more lobsters in the past few years, than we have seen in the past 17 years. We are finally starting to get somewhere, and they are going to change things again,” Centerport lobstermen Peter Landa said.
Regulators said while there are pockets of abundance, the most recent decline is a serious problem. A decision is expected in June, and it will impact the industry for several years.
The next time the commission will survey the lobster population in the Long Island Sound will be in 2020.