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New law restricts pesticides toxic to lobsters

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Sen. Bob Duff speaks about the future of Long Island Sound fishing at Darien Seafood Market. Local fishermen joined him at the press conference, along with other state representatives, such as Sen. Carlo Leone, and Selectmen Jayme Stevenson and David Campbell (Darien Times/Yevgeniya Davydov)

Two frequently used and toxic pesticides — methoprene and resmethrin — that have plagued lobster fisherman for more than a decade will no longer be used in the area. The chemicals are effective in controlling mosquitoes populations, but have also reduced the lobster population from 3.7 million pounds in 1998 to 142,000 pounds.

Lobsters are arthropods, which places them in the same phylum classification as mosquitoes, and might explain why they are affected.

State Sens. Bob Duff and Carlo Leone, along with First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and Selectman Dave Campbell, and local fisherman hosted a press conference at Darien Seafood Market, owned by Roger Frate, on Monday, June 24, to announce the legislative victory with Public Act 13-197.

By Sept. 1, 2013, it will ban methoprene and resmethrin from storm drains or “water conveyance in the state’s coastal boundary, except in a city with at least 100,000 people and a documented death from West Nile virus,” the law states. The state will also be required to keep records, report on and post online the coastal towns that use the pesticides.

A pilot program will also be set up in September, with the goal of creating consistent labeling requirements for the pesticides’ sale.

Ultimately, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, commissioner and the Department of Public Health can decide whether a situation is dire enough to use the chemicals in still water.

“This recommendation must be based on [Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s] surveillance in accordance with the state’s mosquito management program,” the law states.

The act will “alleviate the pressures on the lobster industry,” Duff said. Rhode Island and Massachusetts have passed similar laws, he added, and they are now asking New York state to follow suit.

“We should be doing everything we can to reverse the trend and bring the lobster population back to a health level,” he said. “I am confident that spraying fewer pesticides in coastal areas will help accomplish that.”

Sen. Leone also said his hope that New York “will soon follow suit,” to rid the Long Island sound of toxic pesticides. Sen. Jonathan Steinberg, of Westport, agreed that the pressure is now on New York, adding that they plan to use the off-session time “productively.”

Lance Stewart, a retired UCONN professor who studied lobsters, shared his satisfaction for the law at the seafood shop.

When the DEEP released a study in July 2012 that identified the pesticides inside lobsters, some still had questions.

Other theories include increased hypoxia, or the warming of the oceans that deplete oxygen and make lobsters more susceptible to disease. Dr. Richard French, a veterinary pathologist at the University of New Hampshire, said last year that the paramoeba microorganism identified in dead lobsters in 1999 could have attributed to the problem.

The DEEP study found that concentrations of resmethrin and methoprene well below those found in the Long Island Sound lobsters are lethal to the crustaceans.

A fisherman for 31 years, Tony Carlo said that was optimistic about the future after this law.

“I’m hoping it’s not too late,” he said. “I hope there’s a future in the Long Island Sound for us.”

It’s really about what the Sound itself deserves, he added.

Frate, the owner of Darien Seafood Market on Post Road, has been fishing for 50 years. He has also been a champion for banning pesticides for more than a decade.

“I had wished DEEP listened to us years ago,” Frate lamented. He also took a jab at New York and their practices.

“I don’t understand how corrupt a state could be to kill the environment,” he said.

Duff concluded the conference with an analogy.

“Picture them as farmers,” he said, because he pointed out it’s harder to understand the ocean because you can’t see what’s going on in the water.

Additional reporting by David DesRoches.

ydavydov@darientimes.com

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