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Lobstermen brace for 1st LI Sound shutdown

NEW LONDON (AP) — Connecticut’s lobstermen are bracing for the start of the Long Island Sound fishery’s first-ever seasonal shutdown.

The closure is set to begin Sunday and extend to Nov. 28 in an attempt to give the Sound’s depleted lobster population a chance to rebuild.

“None of us are sure what we’re going to do for three months without working,” said Michael Theiller, who keeps his lobster boat in New London. “It’s going to be a bit difficult.”

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission required the state to take steps to reduce the total lobster harvest by 10 percent in 2013. The timing was requested by lobstermen to coincide with the drop in wholesale prices.

The fishery has been in decline for the last 15 years because of pesticide residue, diseases and warming waters from climate change that stresses lobsters. Overabundant predators such as striped bass, scup and other species also are seen as preventing the lobsters from rebuilding. Michael Grimshaw, president of the Southern New England Fishermen & Lobstermen’s Association, said lobstering now is not that profitable. Wholesale prices for lobster are about $4.50 per pound. With wages for crew members and high fuel prices, wholesale prices need to be $5 to $6 a pound for a decent return, he said.

Theiller, who is vice president of the Connecticut Lobstermen’s Association, and Stonington lobsterman Michael Grimshaw, president of the Southern New England Fishermen & Lobstermen’s Association, say they understand the fishery is being closed to help the Sound’s depleted lobster population rebuild. But they’re skeptical it will make a difference.

“I’m not sure it’s going to do anything,” said Grimshaw, who will spend part of the three-month closure on one of his two boats fishing in unaffected waters outside the Sound. He and Theiller expect they’ll have to lay off two crewmen each during the closure.

David Simpson, director of marine fisheries for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said most lobstermen are part time, with about 120 commercial lobster licenses and 225 recreational licenses in effect.

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