NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (AP) – The lobster catch in Rhode Island has seen an unprecedented decline over the past few years, with last year’s haul hitting a historic low.

Still, by all indications, the state’s lobster population remains healthier that populations to the south. Likewise, the Massachusetts fishery is struggling, and even Maine – particularly southern Maine – is seeing signs that its boom is quieting down.

“The lobster population boomed, I mean boomed, back in the ’90s,” said Kathleen Castro, a lobster researcher and director of the sustainable fisheries extension program at the University of Rhode Island. “People got used to the levels. That can’t continue; fishing is going to come down to normal levels. The big question is: what are the normal levels?”

The last five years have witnessed striking change for the lobstermen of Rhode Island, reports The Providence Journal. The late 1990s saw the most aggressive and profitable lobster fishing season on record. But after a half-decade of decline, last year’s catch represented a historic low.

Last year, the fishery, with lobstermen already beginning to sell or reoutfit their boats, brought in roughly 3.25 million pounds. In 2000, the catch was almost double that, at 6.97 million pounds.

Though the numbers have not been finalized, marine biologists blame pollution, disease, overfishing and evolution – or a combination of it all – for the declining catch.

“Essentially we are seeing unprecedented low levels,” said Robert Glenn, a marine biologist and technical committee chairman of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates the lobster fishery along the North Atlantic coast.

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