Is it possible New Yorkers may one day have a hard time finding a locally caught lobster dinner?
Anthony Sosinski, 42, thinks so. The 24-year lobsterman said if approved, a proposed five-year ban on lobster fishing in the southern New England waters will affect not only the fishermen, but people looking to dine on their catch as well.
Sosinski voiced his concerns in a meeting attended by about 100 in East Setauket, Tuesday night. The meeting aimed to discuss possible alternatives to the biologist-recommended moratorium, which was made earlier this year in response to a decrease in the southern New England area's lobster population. This zone includes the Long Island Sound.
“If they shut down the lobster fishery, lobster will be off the menu,” Sosinski said.
While some agree with his assessment, others feel the effects of the ban will never reach consumers.
The crowd's critiques on the ban were directed at biologist Kim McKown and the board members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission of New York.
“That was pretty much what I expected,” said the state Department of Environmental Conservation's director of marine resources James Gilmore. “We're the ones bringing the bad news to these guys. They’re frustrated.”
About 1.1 million pounds of lobster were harvested in 2008, an 88 percent decline from 1996, according to the commission.
Several alternatives to the ban were suggested, including increasing the minimum size of lobsters caught to allow them more time to reproduce and implementing a program to notch the shells of female lobsters of reproducing age so fishermen do not harvest them. The idea most appreciated by the crowd was to do nothing and let nature take care of the problem.
“Sometimes no action is the best action,” fisherman Tony DeMaula, 72, said to the crowd. His comments were followed by applause.
This was repeated throughout the meeting, along with a claim from the fishermen that the data supporting the ban was flawed.
During the meeting, one fisherman after another denounced the data and called for scientists to observe the harvesting done on their boats.
“This is baloney what you’re trying to shove down our throats,” DeMaula said angrily.
His son, Matt DeMaula, offered a similar sentiment.
“Get some current data, and send some people out on our boats,” Matt DeMaula said, raising his voice. “I’m fishing tomorrow at 6 a.m. Be there!”
Biologist McKown said she is more than happy to go with the fishermen to collect additional data. But regardless, she said, the current data will not be disregarded.
“The data needs to be representative of trends,” she said. “It is important to have data not collected by fishermen.”
She said the views of the fishermen did not change her mind.
“Science is telling me that the stock is in very bad shape, and I think the moratorium would certain be the best chance for the stock to come back,” she said.
A final decision on the ban will not be made until November.