(Montauk, NY) Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) introduced a bill on July 30, 2013, to establish strict guidelines for the use of Methoprene within estuaries in Suffolk County.
Methoprene, an insect growth regulator, is considered a biochemical pesticide that is acutely toxic to estuarine invertebrates, including valuable food and commercial species like crabs and lobsters. Environmental Protection Agency studies have found that Methoprene can be lethal to non-target organisms such as lobsters and crabs.
The lobster population in the Long Island Sound has decreased dramatically over the last decade, corresponding with the introduction of new pesticides such as Methoprene, into waters along the Long Island Sound.
“The county should be doing everything it can to limit the unnecessary introduction of toxins into our environment,” said Schneiderman. “Methoprene poses the possibility of causing damage to key species that our recreational and commercial fishermen depend on.”
According to Schneiderman’s proposal, Methoprene could only be applied in estuaries when one or more disease threats have been identified in local mosquito populations or two or more bacterial larvicide treatments, such as Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis (BTI), have been unsuccessful in limiting mosquito population numbers.
“There are alternatives to Methoprene that have not been shown to be harmful to our crabs and lobsters,” said Legislator Schneiderman.
“As the emerging science is showing Methoprene poses a significant risk to commercial fisheries such as lobsters and crabs,” said Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister. “I applaud Legislator Schneiderman for bringing this important issue to the forefront and to attempt to advance the interest of placing restrictions on this toxic pesticide.”
Connecticut previously passed legislation in March, 2013 banning Methoprene. This bill was in response to decreased lobster population in the Long Island Sound. Lobstermen believed mosquito pesticides, such as Methoprene, to be a possible cause. There is evidence which suggest the chemicals have entered the lobsters and are particularly dangerous to them when they are juveniles. The Long Island Sounds’s lobster population fell from 3.7 million pounds in 1998 to 142,000 pounds in recent years.
The Connecticut bill prohibits the introduction of Methoprene into any storm drain or conveyance of water in the coastal boundary zone in an effort to prevent these chemicals from being introduced into the Long Island Sound.
Cities and towns throughout Rhode Island have also stopped using Methoprene in storm drains and instead use Bacillus Sphaericus, a naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquitoes without affecting lobsters or other non target organisms. Several other coastal cities and towns along the Eastern Seaboard have passed resolutions banning or opposing the use of Methoprene.
Maine is the only East Coast fishery where Methoprene has been banned for an extended period. The lobster population there is at acceptable, sustainable levels. Maine is also the only fishery where the lobster population does not suffer from shell disease. In all other fisheries where Methoprene is introduced, lobster birth rates are noticeably below normal.
Legislator Schneiderman had first introduced similar restrictions in 2007, but they were not adopted by the Legislature after opposition from Suffolk County Vector Control officials. Legislator Schneiderman hopes his bill will fare better this time in light of the new studies and legislative action in Connecticut, Rhode Island and other areas.