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Too much study and no action to save the lobster fishery

By NICK CRISMALE

Publication: The Day

Published August 27. 2012 4:00AM

For 13 years Connecticut lobstermen have pleaded with state officials, specifically the Department of Marine Fisheries to recognize the simple concept that using pesticides near storm drains is lethal to lobsters. Since 2003, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has known of the lethal effects. However, David Simpson, the director of Marine Fisheries, stated in the July 11 article, "Lobsters will be tested for pesticides in state project," that he's "surprised" to find the presence of pesticides in lobsters. How surprised can he be when he's known the effects of pesticides on lobsters since 2003?

In 1999 when the lobster die-off struck, the federal government appropriated approximately $7 million for research. The funds were divided between Connecticut and New York and a research team was formed. The team included state and federal environmental officials and some lobster industry workers. I was the appointed Connecticut lobsterman representative on the team.

In 2003, one well-respected pathobiologist researcher from the University of Connecticut, Sylvain DeGuise, announced that his testing revealed a mere 33 parts per billion of methoprene kills half the lobsters in a 20-gallon tank (about 1 drop in a billion).

Despite his knowledge since 2003, Simpson has chosen to ignore the studies and instead has his own agenda in conducting the state's business against the lobstermen in Long Island. He has implemented regulations, which have killed the already decimated lobster industry by supporting increases in gauge size, trap modifications and ordering moratoriums on lobster seasons. He has done just about everything to regulate the lobstermen except listen to Dr. DeGuise and other industry researchers who have told him that pesticides are killing the lobsters.

To put this in perspective, currently in Connecticut there are fewer than 15 lobstermen "attempting" to make a living; in 1998 there were 350-licensed lobstermen. In 2011 a sparse 142,000 pounds was caught in 1998 and the years prior, landings averaged 2.3 million pounds per year. Why did so many lobsters die so suddenly? The answer is pesticides and DEEP's failure to do its job.

Simpson has called Dr. Robert Bayer's opinion that the pesticides have been killing the Sound lobsters "simplistic." Dr. Bayer is a University of Maine professor and executive director of the Lobster Institute, one of the most well respected, knowledgeable authorities on lobster health. Judging by Maine's refusal to use pesticides and their current booming success in lobster production under the direction of Dr. Bayer, maybe Simpson should subscribe to the "simplistic" plan because his plan is not working.

The time for studying is over. No more power-point presentations, no more reformatting or manipulated graphs. We know the answers. It's an injustice to our state that Mr. Simpson will not listen.

We need to adamantly demand our environmental officials be accountable and perform the job they were hired to do with our tax dollars. If we don't, then we will soon be fondly reminiscing about the once tasty creature that flourished in the Sound.

Nick Crismale is the oresident of the Connecticut Commercial Lobsterman's Association.

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