- Long Island Sound lobstermen have held out hope that waters from Northport to Mattituck might see a resurgence after a decadeslong decline. But the numbers aren’t materializing.
- New York state reported record-low landings of lobsters in 2022, the first year in which the dwindling number of lobstermen reported a catch that fell under 100,000 pounds.
- The 82,987 pounds reported last year was a drop of 23,000 pounds from 2021, and continued a steady decline that has beset the fishery from a late 1990s die-off.
Al Schaffer, a longtime lobsterman who fishes out of Montauk, said he’s seen steady lobster fishing in the waters off Fishers Island and some closer to Long Island, with recent highs around the time COVID struck in 2020. This year has been a little slower, he said.
“We have our own body of lobsters in the race,” he said, referring to waters around Plum and Fishers Islands. He said he doubts the theory that lobsters from the western Sound simply migrated east to cooler waters. “I don’t think there’s any lobsters in western Long Island Sound to walk east.”
Some lobstermen have moved to even deeper waters. Anthony Sosinski, who fishes for lobsters and Jonah crabs out of Montauk, does most of his fishing 50 miles from shore — a fishery so distant that his exploits of heading to fishing grounds at night became the subject of a book.
“When I left the inshore lobster fishery in 2003, it was because we couldn’t make a living anymore inshore,” Sosinski said. He said he suspects many of the lobsters that once inhabited the western Sound migrated east, while poor water quality makes it impossible for new eggs to hatch and grow.
“The eggs don’t survive because the water quality isn’t there for them,” Sosinski said of the Sound. “That’s what’s killing our seafood.”
It’s also leading to a decline in active fishermen.
“The assessment is [that] it’s pretty much done,” said John German, president of Long Island Sound Lobstermen’s Association, a trade group.
In a prepared statement to Newsday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates the lobster fishery, noted that prolonged exposure to water above 68 degrees is “stressful to American lobsters.” German noted that water temperatures in the Sound hit 80 degrees this year and recently have settled around 75 degrees.