"The Last of the Lobstermen, Chasing a Vanishing Treasure"

A big die-off of lobsters in Long Island Sound has put local lobstermen on their last legs. Likely causes of the decline include global warming, pesticides, a hurricane, and bacteria.

"No matter his age, a Long Island lobsterman, thinking back to the good old days, will always describe the same years. That would be pretty much any of them before 1999.

It has been 12 years since a great die-off of lobsters in Long Island Sound rocked the local industry and stumped researchers. It lasted three days but wiped out an estimated nine-tenths of the catch, compared with two years earlier.

Scientists blamed global warming, citing increased temperatures in the lower waters where lobsters live. Another culprit was pesticides like those deployed against the West Nile virus. The die-off began around the same time that the remnants of Hurricane Floyd swept over Long Island and, lobstermen believe, flushed pesticides into the Sound.

The past 12 years have not been kind. Adding to the misery is a bacterial invasion that causes deformities in lobster shells and “reduces the marketability of the product,” said Antoinette Clemetson, a marine fisheries specialist with New York Sea Grant. “We’re in the worst possible environmental combination of factors. They’re simultaneous.” "

Barton Silverman and Michael Wilson report for the New York Times August 7, 2011.

Source: NY Times, 08/09/2011