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Brookhaven puts off vote seeking ban on horseshoe crab harvesting in town waters

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

The Brookhaven Town Board has postponed voting on a plan asking state authorities to outlaw harvesting horseshoe crabs at town beaches after fishermen objected to the idea.

Brookhaven officials had planned to vote last Thursday on the nonbinding resolution after Supervisor Edward P. Romaine held a news conference last week at which he expressed concern for the "potential population collapse" of the prehistoric creatures on Long Island. His comments were backed by local environmentalists and marine scientists.

Romaine and other board members agreed to delay the vote after about a dozen people, most of them baymen, spoke against the proposed ban.

"Brookhaven Town does not need to do this," John Davi, a fisherman, told the board. Davi is a member of the New York State Marine Fisheries Advisory Council, which advises the state Department of Environmental Conservation on marine resources issues.

Davi and others said the DEC already regulates the taking of horseshoe crabs, and they said the arthropods are not in danger of being overharvested.

"There's no way those horseshoe crabs are endangered," said fisherman John German, of Brookhaven hamlet.

Federal guidelines limit the number of horseshoe crabs that may be harvested, according to the DEC website. Commercial baymen must obtain state permits to catch horseshoe crabs and report their hauls to the DEC.

Horseshoe crabs, often used as bait to catch eels and other fish, typically are harvested when the animals move into shallow waters during their mating season, between May and June.

Romaine and Councilwomen Valerie Cartright and Connie Kepert said they would meet with fishermen to discuss their concerns.

"I am happy to meet with the baymen," Romaine told the group. "I want to make sure you all have an opportunity to be heard."

Nancy Solomon, executive director of Long Island Traditions, a nonprofit cultural preservation group in Port Washington, said the baymen have agreed to meet with Brookhaven officials before the next town board meeting on June 4.

Solomon said she opposes the ban because it would put many baymen out of work.

"It would be a death knell, quite frankly," she said in an interview. "It would be very tough to make a living, especially if you live in the Town of Brookhaven and you work in the Town of Brookhaven."


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