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Pending Ban On Harvesting Draws Grumbles From Long Island Sound Lobstermen

MOUNT SINAI, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- In two weeks a ban on lobster harvesting in the Long Island Sound takes effect.

The moratorium is mean to boost a lobster population that has decreased 95 percent.

There was plenty of lobster at the Land And Sea Fish Market in Mount Sinai, but none of it is from the Long Island Sound.

"Lobsters, we're buying everything out of Maine and Canada, locally there's nobody fishing," one merchant told CBS2's Matt Kozar.

Twenty-years-ago the dock would have been crawling with lobstermen unloading their catch, now only a few remain.

"I used to have three men, but now I go out by myself or with a helper," Robert Darling said.

Darling is one of the few. He said the Long Island Sound has never recovered from a massive 1999 fish die-off, fueled by pesticide runoff and waters that have warmed several degrees since the 1970s.

University of Maine Scientists told CBS2 that temperatures in the sound have warmed several degrees beyond what lobsters can tolerate. They said the sound was already on edge for lobster survival. Warmer temperatures pushed them past the threshold.

Lobstermen have grumbled that the new Labor Day ban, meant to allow the lobster population to recover, comes at the height of harvesting season.

"No, I don't think there should be a moratorium, unless they want to kill off this industry altogether," John German, President of the Long Island Lobstermen's Association said.

At the same time, environmentalists claim there is a new threat to lobsters.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to dump dredged materials in the middle of the Long Island Sound for the next 30 years.

"Dumping 30 to 50 million cubic yards of dredged materials only hurts the lobster industry," Adrienne Esposito, Citizens For The Environment, said.

Esposito said the dredged sediment contains low levels of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Lobstermen agreed the stirring up of murky sediment can choke off the population.

"Nobody else sees it when they do the dumping in the water, it's out of sight and out of mind," German said.

The Army Corps of Engineers said dredging is necessary to keep travel lanes clear, but said it's open to any alternative that could boost the fading hopes for the return of Long Island lobster.

The Army Corps of Engineers planned to hold a public hearing on the dredging plan in New London, Connecticut on Thursday night. Two more public hearings are yet to be announced.


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