The warming temperatures can only mean one thing—summer is officially on its way (or, you know, the devastating effects of climate change are kicking in). And there’s nothing we love more than the season’s finest, freshest seafood — namely, succulent lobster and mouthwatering crab cakes. We can almost smell the drawn butter now…

But today’s papers bring troubling news of these tasty delights. Birth rates for Rhode Island’s lobsters are lower than usual, and many fishermen believe the culprit is a chemical being intentionally put in the state’s storm drains. Altosid, a pesticide used to control mosquito populations, may also be killing off lobster larvae.

From an article in The Jamestown Press:
Altosid is made of methoprene, a larvicide, that when applied, reduces the number of adult mosquitoes and thus reduces human risk from mosquito borne diseases such as EEE and West Nile virus. Rhode Island lobstermen and many environmentalists oppose the use of methoprene because the chemical also kills loster larvae.

The lobstermen argue that Maine is the only East Coast fishery where the lobster population is at acceptable, sustainable levels because, unlike other East Coast fisheries, Maine bans the use of methoprene and larvicides in its waters. Maine is also the only fishery where the lobster population does not suffer from shell disease. In all the other fisheries, Rhode Island included, lobster birth rates are noticeably below normal.

So much for our dreams of baked stuffed lobster and lobster bisque. Crab dishes may also be limited this season: Maryland recently joined Virginia in proposing a decrease in the number of blue crabs allowed to be caught in Chesapeake Bay. The proposals hope to bolster suffering crab populations in the bay, but may leave some diners feeling awfully crabby about the lack of succulent, local seafood.

From an article in today’s Washington Post:

These actions follow months of warning from scientists, who said the population of crabs — thought of as the bay’s best survivors because they had thrived while oysters and rockfish died off — has now fallen near an all-time low. They bay-wide population is estimated to be about one-third what it was in 1993. In Maryland, last year’s crab harvest of about 21.8 million pounds was the second-lowest on record.

The reasons for this collapse include a constellation of the Chesapeake’s trouble. Algae blooms, feeding on pollution from farms and cities, rob the water of oxygen. A warmer climate threatens the grasses that shelter baby crabs. And for years watermen have been catching an unhealthy amount of the crab stock.

OK, so maybe the summer may not be brimming with lobster rolls and crab salads. But there are plenty of other things to enjoy — the beach, barbeques, scantily clad gals in bikinis. And if you really need your seafood fix, check out Environmental Defense’s list of sustainable options.

Story by Sarah Parsons. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. The story was added to in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

We'll have the lobster, hold the larvicide
Altosid, a pesticide used to control mosquito populations, may be killing off lobster larvae.