Stony Brook, NY, August 13, 2012 - In mid-July, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) announced that it would be undertaking a comprehensive study seeking reasons for the continued decline in the lobster population of Long Island Sound. Within a few hours, major national and regional media outlets - including The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Connecticut Post, Connecticut Day - began running headlines of this news.
"We are developing the procedures and protocols for a study that will rely on a Sound-wide sampling of lobsters and sophisticated laboratory tests to obtain a better understanding of why this species - and an industry it has historically supported – is now in danger of collapse in Long Island Sound," said CT DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty.
"Through our testing and analysis we will focus on stress factors, such as high water temperatures or chemical contaminants that may be contributing to the decline of the lobster population,” Esty said. “We will also develop a screening - similar to an annual physical exam – to monitor the vital signs of lobster health over time."
Past studies, including those funded through Sea Grant programs in New York and Connecticut via the "Long Island Sound Lobster Initiative", have implicated a series of stressors - with sustained above-average water temperatures and infection with parasitic amoebae heading the list - that led to the major decline in Long Island Sound lobster populations since 1999. The Sound is near the southern end of the inshore temperature range of American lobsters.
Based on continuing population declines and new tests which can detect very low levels of pesticides in lobsters from the Sound, the CT DEEP has decided to conduct additional, more comprehensive studies starting this summer. This Sound-wide lobster health assessment will evaluate all major stressors thought to impact lobster populations, including temperature and pesticides as well as others, to better establish the reasons for the decline.
The Long Island Sound Lobster Initiative was formed after a July 2000 Congressional allocation of $6.6 million in federal funds to NOAA to research the scientific and economic impacts of the die off. Congress directed that approximately $3.5 million of those federal funds be dedicated for research investigating potential causes. New York and Connecticut Sea Grant both received $165,000 each in federal funding to facilitate communication of the research findings to lobster fishers, resource managers, and the public.
Sixty-five scientists at 30 institutions and agencies nationwide participated in the research initiative, investigating the effects of environmental factors, mosquito control pesticides, and disease on the physiology and health of American lobsters. In addition to the CT and NY Sea Grant programs, research projects were funded by NOAA Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of CT through the CT Department of Environmental Protection Office of Long Island Sound Programs and Marine Fisheries Division.
As seen in the video below, Stony Brook University investigator Dr. Anne McElroy discussed her research on the effects of pesticides on larvae and juvenile lobsters in a Fox News segment last October about the current state of the fishery. McElroy's investigation, "The Effects of Pesticides of Lobster Health: Trace Level Measurements and Toxicological Assessment at Environmentally Realistic Concentrations," was one of the Sea Grant-funded projects.