The Pesticide Myth and Long Island Sound's Lobster Die-Off
Lobsters taken fresh from Long Island Sound are few and far between these days after a mass die-out in 1999 that wiped out nearly 80 percent of the lobsters living there.
Though an official cause of the die-off has not been found, local lobstermen have their own ideas about what killed their livelihood.
Nick Crismale, president of the Connecticut Commercial Lobstermen's Association, said the die-off was caused by the spraying of pesticides targeting West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. The pesticides were sprayed in New York and eventually washed into the Sound.
Did you get that? If not, let me repeat for emphasis: though an official cause of the die-off has not been found...
Unfortunately that's not true. Scientists have known since 2004 that pesticides were not the primary cause of the die-off and probably were only a very small factor in a small area of the Sound, namely the far western end. They said as much in an official report, which came out about a year ago and which you can download here. The executive summary of the report says:
Sixty-five scientists at 30 institutions and agencies nationwide participated in the research initiative, investigating the effects of environmental factors, mosquito control pesticides, and disease on the physiology and health of American lobsters. The results indicate that the physiology of the lobsters was severely stressed by sustained, hostile environmental conditions, driven by above- average water temperatures. A new lobster disease, paramoebiasis, was identified as the proximate cause of death for the majority of lobsters examined by pathologists. Laboratory studies demonstrated that the pesticides used for mosquito control have sub-lethal or lethal effects on lobsters, based on concentration and time of exposure; however, modeling exercises indicate it is unlikely that the concentrations of individual pesticides in western Long Island Sound were high enough to cause the mortality event.
Again, for emphasis: it is unlikely that the concentrations of individual pesticides in western Long Island Sound were high enough to cause the mortality event.
So who are you going to believe, 65 scientists, or Nick Crismale?