NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH) — When the lobster die-off happened starting in the late 90s, lobstermen say their livelihood was devastated.
Over the years, some of the lobster traps were abandoned, while others were lost. Now, there is a big effort to recover those traps and clean up the Long Island Sound.
Amanda Fall, a marine science educator with Project Oceanology, is on a team that’s working with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk on the Lobster Trap Recovery and Assessment Partnership, also known as L-TRAP.
“We are all working towards creating a better, cleaner Sound for a more sustainable future,” said Rebha Raviraj, a conservation research assistant with the Maritime Aquarium.
The group is doing that by retrieving old lobster traps that sit on the muddy bottom of Long Island Sound, creating what professionals said is a hazard for marine life.
“What happens is self-baiting,” Raviraj said. “So, these animals die in these traps, and then more animals come because they smell food, and then they in turn also die in these traps.”
That is called ghost fishing, which is dangerous. But there are other hazards.
“These traps may be leaching harmful chemicals in the water as well,” Raviraj said.
What the group finds inside the traps is sometimes surprising — like a little lobster and lots of crabs.
“Yeah, we’re going to hold on to him,” said Fall who showed News 8 a crab that was in a trap retrieved on a trip. The group also reeled in old boat parts and balloons.
The project is funded by a $569,000 federal grant, which covers a total of about 95 of these trips through next March.
So far, they’ve retrieved about 1,020 traps, but they believe there are tens of thousands of them out there.
If the lobster traps are newer and were registered in the last couple of years, they will put them back in the water. Otherwise, they take them, contact the owner, and give them 30 days to reclaim them.
These crews hope to get more funding so they can continue to pull the traps from Long Island Sound for years to come.
“This is my home water, so it makes me feel good to help clean it up,” said Ian Morrison, the captain for Project Oceanology. “I’m very excited that we’re involved.”