BOSTON — Lobstermen in southern New England are facing a possible five-year fishing ban to help depleted stocks.

Biologists made the drastic recommendation to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission regulators. They acknowledge “catastrophic effects” on local lobstermen, but say the move is needed to rebuild the lobster to sustainable levels.

But Rhode Island lobsterman Bill McElroy said today it would be “a death sentence” to the industry in the southern New England region, which extends from Cape Cod to North Carolina.

McElroy said lobstermen aren’t overfishing, and believe a host of environmental problems explain what could just be a cyclical downturn.

The southern New England area once accounted for a quarter of the region’s catch. Now it’s down to as little as 5 percent after a lobster crash in the early 2000s that hasn’t been explained.