Huntington is closing its lobster trap storage program, nearly two decades after the local lobster population die-off in the Long Island Sound.
The town board voted unanimously at its May 1 meeting to end the storage program, which has kept the traps at the East Northport landfill on Town Line Road since 1999.
The landfill was originally chosen because it “was the only Town property determined to be suitable for the storage of lobster traps that would not interfere with the use of such property,” according to a resolution ending the storage program.
Now about a thousand traps are languishing at the landfill, said town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, who had drafted the original plan to store the traps.
“It’s getting in the way of the operations at the landfill,” Cuthbertson said. “The traps are overgrown by vegetation. The overwhelming majority haven’t been claimed — no one has come back for them.”
The traps are no longer usable and will be disposed of by the town, he said.
The East Northport landfill is closed and capped under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Last November, the DEC updated its landfill regulations, which the town has interpreted to mean the lobster traps should no longer be stored at the site.
“The Town Board voted to allow storage of the lobster traps at the East Northport landfill in 1999, after a massive lobster die-off in the Long Island Sound significantly affected the lobster industry,” Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said in an emailed statement. “Only a handful of lobstermen still store their traps at the landfill but the traps are in the path of runoff water from the landfill, an inactive hazardous waste site, so the program is being discontinued to comply with changes in environmental law.”
The catastrophic 1999 die-off of the once-robust local lobster industry was attributed, in part, to warming waters in the Sound that drove the population north. That year, Cuthbertson drafted the plan for Huntington to offer free storage to lobstermen for their traps and boats at the closed landfill. At the time, there were about 105 commercial lobstermen in the town. Only seven people have used the storage program in the past two years, according to the town.
A DEC spokesman said the town may be interpreting the amended landfill regulations more rigidly than intended and the agency will work with Huntington officials to clarify the regulations.
Nonetheless, the local lobstering era has come to an end, Cuthbertson said.
“It is a sad thing, the last gasp of it all,” he said. “If they [lobsters] were coming back, people would be reclaiming their traps and throwing them back in the water.”