Westport Lawmaker Praises Law To Protect Lobsters From Pesticides

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State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk, Darien), center, addresses members of the media in Darien Seafood Market, as other elected officials and several lobstermen look on.
State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk, Darien), center, addresses members of the media in Darien Seafood Market, as other elected officials and several lobstermen look on. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron
A new bill signed into law on Friday is aimed at helping to restore the lobster population in Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut.
A new bill signed into law on Friday is aimed at helping to restore the lobster population in Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron
Sen. Bob Duff and Sen. Carlo Leone discuss the dramatic impact of pesticides on the lobster population in Long Island Sound and what new legislation passed this month will do to help. Photo Credit: ctsenatedemocrats

DARIEN, Conn. -- Fairfield County's lobster industry has been decimated in the past 15 years, but a new bill signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy last Friday is giving the few remaining lobster fishermen hope of reviving the population of the marine crustacean in Long Island Sound.

Several of the state's estimated 15 to 20 remaining lobstermen gathered at Darien Seafood Market on Monday afternoon with state legislators, including state Sens. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk, Darien) and Carlo Leone (D-Stamford, Darien) as well as state Rep. John Shaban (R-Redding-Weston-Easton), to kick off what they hope is the start of a rebirth of lobster-fishing by banning use of two pesticides near the coast of Connecticut.

After years of speculation, there is now enough empirical evidence to suggest that the pesticides methropene and resmethrin, aimed at killing mosquitoes, killed off huge numbers of lobsters after it regularly washed into the Sound through sewer drains.

“The fisheries of Long Island Sound have been devastated by this lobster die-off, which has been terrible for our local economy and all the families that relied on this industry,” Duff said in a statement. "We should be doing everything we can to reverse the trend and bring the lobster population back to a healthy level. I am confident that spraying fewer pesticides in coastal areas will help accomplish that."

Methropene and resmethrin were created to kill mosquitoes that may carry West Nile virus. But in a genetic coincidence, lobsters carry a gene similar to mosquitoes that leaves them susceptible to pesticides.

"We finally have an agreement with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection about using those chemicals in coastal areas," Duff said. "We can't say that's the only reason why, but we do know now that's a big reason why the lobsters have disappeared."

When Connecticut legislators learned that lobsters had returned to the coast of Rhode Island after that state banned those two chemicals, it helped the bill become a reality, Duff said.

"For several years we have listened to the experts who told us that these pesticides could not harm the lobster population – last year, however, we learned that the experts may have been wrong,” said Shaban, Ranking Member of the Environment Committee. "This measure will give the benefit of the doubt to the people who have been working these waters for their entire lives, and will help restore a lucrative local industry.”

The lobster population is at an all-time low off the coast of Connecticut. About 3.7 million pounds of lobster was caught in the Sound within state borders in 1998. That number declined to just 142,000 pounds in 2011, the date of the most recent study.

In addition, 1,200 lobstermen were fishing the state's waters as recently as the mid-1990s.

"We've seen a 98 percent decline in the lobsters we catch," Darien Seafood owner Roger Frate said. "Just two weeks ago, we paid $7.50 a pound when we used to sell them for $2.99 a pound."

Although the bill passed easily in Connecticut with bipartisan support, eliminating the use of methropene and resmethrin will require interstate cooperation. The New York state legislature has no plans to ban the pesticides, which are also washed into the Sound from Long Island.

If New York were to ban the same chemicals today, the Sound's lobster industry would return to the levels of the 1990s within three years, Frate estimated. 

"I think we will soon look back on the last 10 years as an unfortunate time in which we inadvertently allowed one of our oldest industries to be almost destroyed," Leone said in a statement. "I hope that by reversing course, we can allow the lobster population to recover and bring back some of the jobs that were lost. I hope our neighbors in New York will soon follow suit."

Duff, Shaban and Leone were joined Monday by fishermen Tony Carlo and Mike Kalaman, Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport, Rep. Terry Backer  of Stratford, Sen. Clark Chapin of New Milford and Lance Stewart of the University of Connecticut.

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Comments (6)

Clams & lobsters don't vote.

"We can't say that's the only reason why, but we do know now that's a big reason why the lobsters have disappeared."
Its simple Bob gross contamination found in places like village creek and Oyster shell park has been forgooten about.The last report on Oyster Shell park states with the tide does hazardous waste seep out into the Norwalk river.Village creek the State found traces of PCB but thought it would be bad to tell anyone what was found on initial testing a few months ago.

Bob I just called Norwalks board of health and asked what was safe in Norwalk to fish she said call the State yet after calling Darien's Health board the number 1 203 838 9807 was given a number Norwalks health board runs.The coast is closed and has been for years.

Who knows anything Bob?This was a poor display of grandstanding on a issue ignored far too long by Norwalk don't you agree?Those poor souls in Darien are denied some of their coast because of what Bob?

I understnd the lobsters are our focus what about those who fish in the areas effected the message wasn't in Spanish Bob.Bob I think you should with report in hand from Oyster shell park stand up for what is right and not what sounds good.

I have talked to some of the fishermen the they too agree maybe if some honestly was spread among the coast and the problems that seem to be long standing approached we would all feel better/

Great news the power plant is closing bad news is who will test for pollutants along South Norwalks coast?The power plant teste so they can't be blamed for what flows out of South Norwalk without them who will test daily?

Sems poluution is not your forte you have done nothing to isolate those plumes in your district if you have its gone by us and those at the EPA regional office.

This last storm left thousands of gallons of fuel along water street evn=en in Washinton Village what was done to clean up restore and prevent spills like that that went unoticed in your city?Spedy dry was used in the boat yards to hde the fact there was a problem but really who cares the fishermen know Norwalk river has been doomed for years once the three large cells of contamination was BURIED in the middle of the Norwalk river.Oyster Park Hazardous waste site was not cleaned up it was disguised as a park and t this day has problems but now its Norwalks problems right the feds gave it to the State and the State what gave it back to Norwalk capped not cleaned up.

Ken you talk about the sewage plant yet the state allows chemicals to be dropped into the sewage line from King Industries heading for the plant there are those ducuments that show that.King admitted to disposing into Oyster shell park its no secret the good ole boys take care of any fallout.

What gets me asking the Norwalk health board for a number that say didn't exist shows us all cleaning up the coast may have to start in the State House not one lawn at a time.

1 203 838 9807 should show some what I am trying to point out is fact.These beds have been closed for years and Darien is always willing to work with any of us to protetct their coast that seems to be hurting because of chemicals and bacteria that shows it has a Norwalk start.

The power plant Bob you know one of the dirty five its called is closing and with that means cleanup. For the fishermens sake is the State is overseeing such a closer its easier dumping the waste into the ocean than to dispose of it and what has been suggested there is over 250,000 gallons of waste that has to go somewhere probably over the road thru Norwalk.They are closing the plant but have the option of selling it I assume.The last fire at the power plant was probably the last time it had an inspection and the degree of complicated piping and holding areas should have more than our fire dept watching over it for all of us they have a hard time protecting us from Lajoies the power plant is a larger item for professionals like the DEEP the ones in your pocket according to this grand press release.

Please look into it Bob many lives could be effected that eat Lobster.

At this point, I think anyone who eats shell fish out of the sound is a fool.

I was born in Norwalk and lived some of my life on Van Zant St. So I spent a lot of time around the harbor and the beach. I can tell you this before the city strove to make improvements and keep up with growth.
I never went home with out a load of Steamers, or Blue Shells when they were running strong, or Snappers.
But the City of Norwalk trying to improve life and keep up with expansion has done more harm to the waters off Norwalk. First with a sewage plant that has all but killed clamming for the common man, and now poisoning the Lobsters! I understand what administrators are up against, but I also think they opted for the quick fix, and neglected the opportunity to do some LONG RANGE THINKING AND PLANING sometimes you can't, but neither can you just say ...well that took care of it....When it really didn't !

Don't expect any help from Obama either...he is the King of the quick fix, and/or not getting anything meaningful done. So far he has only caused Division, anger, and false hope, and aided racism!

Maybe more interaction between the coastal towns is needed to get everyone sharing thinking and working together. Norwalk is a great town with great water to take care of.... If Norwalk doesn't who will?

Hmm, what about the pesticide known as the Democratic party thats killing the whole state?