NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Boaters are locating lost lobster traps to clean up the Long Island Sound. Some speculate it had to do with warmer waters, others say nitrogen pollution is to blame.
But one thing is for sure: lobster fishing, once a lucrative business on Long Island, has seen a decline over the past two decades. Regardless of the reason, researchers believe close to half a million abandoned pots are piled on the bottom of the Sound.
Captain John German volunteers some of his time and resources.
"Storage and property are at a premium, a lot of guys just left it there," German said.
One by one, hooks are carefully lowered onto the sea floor.
Through grants and funding, Cornell Cooperative Extension is trying to recover them.
"These pots are down there, they're not being tended by anyone and they're still actively fishing," " said Scott Curatolo-Wagemann, a Cornell fisheries specialist. "So a lobster or crustacean or fin fish can enter the trap, get in there and has no way of getting out and they're subsequently dying."
Since 2010, the nonprofit has pulled close to 17,000 traps.
Lobsters caught in the process are recorded and then released back into the water in an effort to boost the population.
Traps are stacked at the dock. Town front loaders crush and put them in a dumpster. The metal gets recycled and brought to the incinerator.
"We do this just about 12 months of the year. As long as we're not iced-in or no really bad weather," Curatolo-Wagemann said. "We try to go out whenever we can."