Pesticides used to control mosquitoes have been detected in a locally harvested luxury food -- Long Island Sound lobsters.
In what's believed to be the first such finding involving local lobsters, Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection found trace amounts of resmethrin, also known as Scourge, in at least three out of 10 lobsters tested, and methoprene in at least one.
The lobsters were collected in September from the mid-Sound after Connecticut lobstermen reported hauling up more dead and weak lobsters than usual. The study was released earlier this month.
"We frankly didn't expect to find pesticides," Dave Simpson, the agency's director of marine fisheries, said Friday. "We need to figure out how widespread this is . . . and what it means to lobster health."
Scourge has been sprayed over the Island to kill adult mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus. Methoprene briquettes have been placed in North Shore marshes and limited areas of Connecticut to stop larvae from growing.
A spokeswoman for Nassau County's health department, which is responsible for mosquito control, referred questions to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, saying that agency reviews and approves mosquito-control plans.
A DEC spokeswoman noted that Connecticut's study did not test lobster meat, only the tomalley, or liver-like organ, and the gonads. For years, both states have advised consumers not to eat the organs due to high levels of contaminants, such as PCBs. Other analyses have found that the minimal contamination found in lobster tails doesn't pose a health risk.
Suffolk officials did not return calls Friday afternoon.
The study buttresses lobstermen's long-held suspicions that their catches are being affected by mosquito spraying.
"No kidding," said Jim King, former head of the Long Island Sound Lobstermen's Association, of the findings. "We spray these poisons around to kill things. Well, these poisons kill other things, too."
In 1999, a massive die-off of Long Island Sound lobsters decimated the local industry. Scientists later concluded warmer waters made the crustaceans more susceptible to disease.
The impact of pesticides on the lobster fishery remains unclear, Simpson said.
Last September, waters at the bottom of the Sound were about 72 degrees, four degrees warmer than lobsters can tolerate, Connecticut officials found. Scientists concluded that the usually cooler bottom waters had been roiled and mixed with warmer surface waters by tropical storms Irene in August and Lee in September.