New law prohibits insecticides to help Long Island lobsters
Attempting to revitalize the lobstering industry on Long Island Sound, a new law has outlawed the use of two chemicals used by state and local governments to control mosquito populations.
House bill 6441 limits the use of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved larvicide methoprene and adulticide resmethrin in costal areas of Connecticut, according to the Madison Patch. These chemicals are the primary tools used to curb the spread of West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The American Mosquito Control Association says the chemicals have been used without incident since the late 1960s.
However, WTNH News 8, a Connecticut TV station, reports that a number of studies show the two chemicals are responsible for the mass die-off of lobsters in the sound.
Rep. Elissa Wright, a democratic co-sponsor of the law said in a statement, “A catastrophic lobster die-off in the fall of 1999 corresponded with the application of a pesticide cocktail including these compounds [methoprene and resmethrin] to the western Long Island Sound watershed area during that summer for the control of mosquitoes that carried West Nile virus, a new and emerging disease at the time, leading to concerns about the potential for a relationship between these insecticides and toxic effects on lobsters.”
Lobstering in the sound was a thriving industry less than a decade ago, but today is nearly non-existent. WTNH reports in 1998, 3.7 million pounds of lobster were pulled from the waters off Connecticut, but in 2011, that number was down to 142,000 pounds. The number of lobsters trapped in the central and western parts of the sound has fallen by 99 percent since 1998.
The new law does not guarantee lobsters will return to the sound, but politicians and commercial fishermen are hopeful the insecticide prohibition will help save the industry, according to WTNH.
But not everyone believes the insecticides can be blamed for the lobster die-off. “It’s ironic that methoprene is considered by the EPA – and even the World Health Organization – to be safe for use on food products and in drinking water but is no longer considered safe in Connecticut catch basins to do its job preventing disease by controlling mosquitoes,” Joe Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association told the Madison Patch. “This law threatens public health and is based on the opinion and suspicions of a handful of lobstermen – not on repeated, reputable and independent science that has proven methoprene to be safe and effective.”
Regardless, Connecticut fishermen want their livelihood back. "I don't know if it's too late. I'm hoping it's not too late. And I'm hoping there can be a future out in Long Island Sound for us," Tony Carlo, a commercial fisherman, told WTNH.