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Connecticut Passes Law to Curb Pesticide Use to Save Lobsters

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2013) After years of lobster decline, a new law in Connecticut seeks to protect and revive the crustacean population by banning the use of toxic mosquito pesticides in coastal areas. With the support of Connecticut’s remaining lobsterman, Governor Dannel Malloy last Friday signed into law House Bill 6441, which bans two chemicals, methoprene and resmethrin. Declines in the  sound’s lobster population have been alarmingly common for the past 15 years, devastating fishermen and the local economy that depends on them. The pesticides have long been suspected in killing off the lobsters; however last summer, it was officially linked when those chemicals were detected in lobster tissue last summer. Connecticut legislators say that they were convinced that banning the two mosquito pesticides after learning that Rhode Island and Massachusetts had enacted similar bans with successful results.

“The fisheries of Long Island Sound have been devastated by this lobster die-off, which has been terrible for our local economy and all the families that relied on this industry,” State Senator Bob Duff (D-Norwalk, Darien) said in a statement. “We should be doing everything we can to reverse the trend and bring the lobster population back to a healthy level. I am confident that spraying fewer pesticides in coastal areas will help accomplish that.”

Methoprene has a tendency to sink to the bottom of the ocean water, where lobsters live and feed. Additionally, lobsters are a distant cousin of mosquitoes, and the methoprene acts on them in much the same way that it does the insects. Finally, the western part of the sound was the hardest hit. Not only is this the area that is closest to New York, but it is also one of the areas more protected from ocean currents that would normally help to wash the chemical out into the open sea. In 2003, it was determined by researchers at the University of Connecticut that methoprene was deadly to lobsters at concentrations of only 33 parts per billion. The research was seized upon by the lobstering community as part of its quest to seek legal recourse against chemical companies whose pesticides they blamed for widespread lobster deaths in 1999.

A pilot program will be set up in September that will prohibit the use of methoprene or resmethrin in any storm drain or water system within the coastal boundary. Though the law is being met with resistant by some who worry about the increased risk of West Nile Virus (WNv) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), the law explicitly allows the use of the chemicals if there is a documented case of WNv in a community with a population of over one hundred thousand residents, or per the recommendations of state environment and health officials if mosquito-borne disease is found or suspected. However, there are safer and effective options for dealing with mosquitoes and insect-borne diseases. The ideal mosquito management strategy comes from an integrated approach emphasizing education, aggressive removal of standing water sources, larval control, monitoring, and surveillance for both mosquito-borne illness and pesticide-related illness. Beyond Pesticides advises communities to adopt a preventive, health-based mosquito management plan, and has several resource publications on the issue, including the Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy: For Decision Makers and Communities.

Around the country, communities have consistently proven that dangerous pesticides are not necessary to effectively control mosquitoes and prevent outbreaks of West Nile virus. Prevention strategies, such as removing standing water and using least-toxic larvicides only as a last resort, have been adopted in such densely populated regions from Lyndhurst, OH to Marblehead, MA, Nashville, TN and the District of Columbia. To learn more about safe and effective mosquito management strategies, visit Beyond Pesticides page on Mosquitoes and Insect Borne Diseases.

Source: The Daily Voice

Photo Courtesy: Darien Patch

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


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