Connecticut DEP Says Success of Lobster “V-notch” Program Postpones Increase in Minimum Size
Effort involved lobstermen and students at three high schools
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said today that the lobster “V-notch” program has achieved the level of success needed to delay – for at least one year – an increase in the current minimum legal size for lobsters that are taken from the waters of Long Island Sound.
Under the “V-notch” program – which was designed to monitor and improve the Long Island Sound lobster population – fishermen from Connecticut and New York returned the equivalent of more than 58,000 mature female lobsters to the Sound between December 2007 and July 2008. This represents more than 100% of the goal established for the first year of the program.
As a result of an agreement with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the “V-notch” program was approved as a viable alternative to an increase in the minimum size for purposes of attempting to restore the Sound’s lobster population. The Commission had agreed to certain milestones – and delaying an increase in minimum size for a year was the recognition agreed to once at least 90% of the goal of the initial phase of the “V-notch” program was achieved.
DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, “We are working to show that the ‘V-Notch’ program can serve as a viable alternative to increases in the minimum legal size and a valuable educational opportunity for the students involved. Completing the first year’s v-notch goal means Connecticut and New York lobstermen fishing in the Sound will not have to endure a gauge increase for at least another year.”
“This is something people in this industry felt was critical for their businesses, given the high costs of fuel and bait and low catches in recent years,” Commissioner McCarthy said. “The achievements of the “V-notch” program were possible only as a result of the support of Governor Rell and the state legislature and the hard work of the Lobster Restoration Advisory Committee (LRAC), the city of Bridgeport, local lobstermen and the state’s three marine-themed technical high schools.”
Having fulfilled the first year goal, the “V-notch” program has delayed – by at least one year – action by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that would have increased the current minimum legal size by 1/16″ from 3 5/16″ to 3 3/8″ on August 1, 2008. This fall, students are expected to begin v-notching for “year two,” and this work will continue until the funding is exhausted. Under the current management plan the next scheduled increase in the minimum legal size would take place in 2010.
Barbara Gordon, Executive Director of the CT Seafood Council said, “I would like to congratulate the staff of the DEP, the three participating schools and the lobstermen who have spent many hours on the water working toward the success of this program. We also owe a big ‘thanks’ and huge praise to the students who made this program work. I would also like to express thanks to legislative leaders and the Governor for believing in us and for providing funding to make this program a success.”
Bart Mansi, a Guilford lobsterman who serves on the LRAC, said, “All the hard work needed to establish the “V-notch” program was well worth the effort. It is a great program and we will work to identify future funding to continue it for the benefit of both the students involved and the industry. This is the first time industry, management and education have really teamed up to work together on an issue and we want to continue this kind of cooperation into the future.”
Background on “V-notch” Program
The “V-notch” program, established by the General Assembly in 2006, is a cooperative venture of Connecticut lobstermen who participate voluntarily, three coastal Connecticut high schools with specialized programs in aquaculture or maritime sciences, and the DEP. In the program, the tails of mature female lobsters are v-notched and the animals are released back into Long Island Sound. This mark protects them from harvest for about two years, giving them time to grow and reproduce.
The program was designed by the Lobster Restoration Advisory Committee, established by the state legislature. Participants include three Connecticut lobstermen, three representatives of the schools, Connecticut’s three Commissioners of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a representative of Commissioner McCarthy and the Executive Director of the Connecticut Seafood Council.
The program is administered by the City of Bridgeport through its Board of Education and Bridgeport Regional Vocational Aquaculture School under a grant from the DEP. Bridgeport’s role as administrator was a critical component for the program, without which employing students and processing payments to vendors, students and lobstermen may not have been possible.
Other participating schools are the Ella T. Grasso Vocational Technical High School in Groton and The Sound School Vocational Aquaculture High School in New Haven. Students of the three schools are employed as “v-notch agents” deployed on the vessels of participating lobstermen. Two person teams notch the lobsters, record biological data, and verify the numbers notched for accountability.