Lobstermen worried that Hurricane Sandy could wreak havoc on traps

Hurricane Sandy is expected to stir up New England waters within the next few days, potentially causing trouble for the state’s already fragile lobster business.

High seas and strong winds will disrupt business and could damage costly gear, said Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Loberstermen’s Association.

“You just don’t know what it’s going to be like,” Adler said. “The traps can get banged up, moved, destroyed.”

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Many lobsterman are bringing in their traps or running them into deeper water to prevent them from being tossed among waves or thrashed into rocks, he said.

“A lot of the gear has been brought in rather than chance it out there, but I don’t think everyone can bring all of their gear in,” Adler said.

Lobstermen are also securing their boats to minimize damage from the approaching storm.

Those keeping their boats secured to a mooring are adding extra lines, while the lobstermen braving the storm on the seas might add an extra anchor, he said.

“Some guys will try to go into a marina and put a lot of ropes on, but if it’s really bad you got the boat rubbing up against the dock which can cause damage,” Adler said.

Most commercial fishermen are out on the seas today hoping to get some last minute fishing in before the waters turn ugly, said Nancy Civetta, spokeswoman for the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association.

“It’s not going to be a fishing day for most of the days next week,” Civetta said.

Most fishermen aren’t too worried and will ride out the storm in a harbor if the winds get too rough, she said.

“From a fisherman’s perspective, it’s not that different from a winter nor’easter,” Civetta said.

Talk of Hurricane Sandy brought Adler back to Oct. 30, 1991, when the “perfect storm” wreaked havoc along the New England coastline.

The storm hit the state’s lobster business so hard that Adler went to the governor at the time to get a disaster declaration and government assistance.

“We got absolutely destroyed,” he said. “That was horrendous. That storm took houses off their foundation and moved them down the street.”

The storm had such a grave impact on the lobster business because lobstermen only start bringing gear in at the end of October and often continue fishing until the end of December, he said.

“Nobody really had brought a lot of stuff in and so it was all out in the ocean,” he said.

If gear is destroyed by Sandy next week, it could add insult to an already tough lobster season, Adler said.

“It’ll take days after the storm just to get out there,” he said. “A lot of these guys have to keep going because of the low prices this year. They have to make ends meet. They were probably hoping to fish a little longer to make up the revenue.”

And if the lobstermen aren’t able to go out on the water, the price for lobster could go up, Adler said. But the demand for lobster at this time of year is slowing down, he added.

“They’re worried,” Adler said. “When lobstermen put their gear out, it’s uninsurable. They’re at the whim of Mother Nature.”