But he complained that fishery managers are focusing on regulating the fishermen and not on other, more difficult issues such as water pollution and the recovery of fish that prey on young lobster.
"I just refuse to give up. I'm hoping somewhere along the line somebody comes up with a program that focuses on the real issues," he said.
Mike Theiler, a Waterford lobsterman who fishes out of New London, said the fishermen have also been squeezed in recent years by hikes in minimum size requirements. With stocks dwindling and the price of lobster down to $4 a pound, he said lobstermen are putting in long hours and maintaining expensive equipment for what amounts to "beer and cigarette money."
"There are few guys willing to put in the work it takes to be a commercial lobsterman," he said.
The lobster haul in Connecticut has shriveled to about 400,000 pounds annually from 3.7 million pounds in 1998. The board that advises the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on lobster rules voted last year to scrap a proposed five-year lobster fishing ban for much of the East Coast, but fishermen say they are concerned now about proposals to limit the catch.
For lobstermen seeking other work, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides training for other jobs in the maritime industry. Tessa Getchis helps to coordinate the program as associate extension educator at Connecticut Sea Grant, which is funded mainly through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She said about 80 lobstermen have signed up for the program, which offers classes in refitting lobster boats and applying their skills to other trades such as aquaculture.
"Some of them have made the decision to move on," Getchis said. "They all hope that this industry will turn around, but it just doesn't look that way right now."
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