A group of about 30 lobstermen brought their pots to the state Capitol Thursday, telling lawmakers that pesticide spraying near Long Island Sound is killing their catch.

Officials in New York and several Connecticut towns have been spraying pesticides in an attempt to kill mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.

The lobstermen blame the spraying for a massive die-off of lobsters that began in 1999. They say that because lobsters and mosquitoes have a similar makeup, a pesticide that kills one will kill the other.

Scientists have not been able to determine what is causing the lobsters to die, though some have linked the deaths to a parasite parameoba that has been found in dead lobsters.

“We’ve lost our fishery,” said Nick Crismale, a lobsterman from Guilford. “Now we’re here. We want to know what they want to do with our businesses, our traps, our equipment — our lives.”

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection planned to meet with the lobstermen in New London later Thursday to discuss the problem.

Figures released by the DEP in the spring showed that 1.36 million pounds of lobster were harvested in the Sound in 2001.

That figures is in marked contrast to the 3.7 million pounds fished in 1998.

–Associated Press