Long Island lobstermen still reeling from a historic closure of Long Island Sound last fall won a victory Wednesday after a state committee declined to put new restrictions on the harvest of a vital alternative species known as whelk.
At a meeting of the Marine Resources Advisory Council in Setauket, board members voted against putting size restrictions on the harvest of whelk, a large snaillike creature also referred to locally as conch. Lobstermen have turned to whelk to make up lost income as the population of lobsters has sharply declined in the waters around Long Island.
Last fall, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, acting on a mandate from federal fisheries regulators, closed the Sound to lobstering from Sept. 8 to Nov. 28, for the first time. The measure is expected to be continued annually until the lobster population rebounds.
John German, president of the Long Island Sound Lobsterman's Association and a longtime lobsterman, argued against the proposed conch rules, saying lobstermen were suffering enough.
"They closed me out of lobstering with a moratorium in the fall that took away 25 to 30 percent of my income," he said. "Now they're trying to ram this [whelk restriction] through here, and there's no data to support it."