AUGUSTA — A bill designed to protect Maine’s $340 million lobster industry by banning two pesticides that have been partially blamed for decimating lobster populations in New York and Connecticut is facing a headwind in the Legislature.
L.D. 1678 is sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle. It would prohibit the use of methoprene and resmethrin, chemicals that were used during a massive mosquito spraying operation in 1999 to combat an outbreak of West Nile in areas along Long Island Sound.
Shortly thereafter, a severe die-off of lobsters wiped out the fishery there, although warming ocean temperatures and other factors are also believed to have played a role.
Rep. Michael Devin, D-Newcastle, told lawmakers on the Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Committee on Thursday that Maine should join Connecticut and ban the two chemicals, traces of which were found in dead lobsters studied in the sound.
“Whatever we apply in the terrestrial environment eventually makes its way to the coast and out to sea,” Devin said.
“The cigarette butt you saw this morning on the sidewalk will end up in the Kennebec River and then flow down to the ocean. Insecticides ... all end up in our ocean.”
The proposal, however, lacks the support of the LePage administration and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, a trade group representing the industry. Patrice McCarron, the association’s executive director, told lawmakers Thursday that lobstermen are concerned about pesticides, but worry that banning methoprene and resmethrin could give a “false sense of security” while ignoring other chemicals that could be more harmful to lobsters.