ROCKLAND, Maine — Officials are investigating a complaint that two Tenants Harbor lobstermen cut lobster traps and one of them threatened another lobsterman with a shotgun.
Evidence in the complaint is expected to be presented to the Knox County District Attorney’s Office this week, according to Sgt. Marlowe Sonksen of the Maine Marine Patrol.
The alleged incident occurred at sea last Thursday, according to a temporary protection from harassment order filed Friday in Rockland District Court. Ty Babb of Tenants Harbor wrote that lobstermen Craig Hupper and his son, Josh Hupper, both of Tenants Harbor, were cutting Babb’s traps. He also wrote that Josh Hupper threatened him with a gun.
Sonksen said that all of the fishermen involved in the incident are known to his agency and that no one was hurt.
“Both sides have informed us of the problems they’re having,” Sonksen said Tuesday morning.
He said Marine Patrol investigators did find evidence of cut buoys.
“That happens fairly frequently,” Sonksen said.
The alleged gun threat is the latest in a string of problems for lobstermen in western Penobscot Bay. In July, a Matinicus Island lobsterman was shot in the neck during an altercation with another lobsterman. In August, three lobster boats were vandalized and two of them sunk in Owls Head harbor.
“All this vandalism and trap cutting just continues on,” Col. Joseph Fessenden of the Maine Marine Patrol said Tuesday morning. “People get frustrated and they don’t know what to do. These conflicts do continue and they’re not going to go away. Things just don’t seem to be quieting down for us.”
Fessenden said that although it isn’t common for feuding lobstermen to obtain temporary protection from harassment orders, in this case he thought “it was a good idea for both of them.”
“There’s been a lot of language exchanged — a lot of hollering between the groups. We’ve had reports of traps being cut from both groups,” Fessenden said. “It puts gas on the fire.”
During all of the lobster-related conflicts, the Marine Patrol has been working closely with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maine State Police, Fessenden said. Agencies held a meeting last week to “fill each other in” on the Tenants Harbor situation. They’ve also stepped up surveillance.
“The day after the incident, we spent most of the day down there with one of our patrol vessels, monitoring both boats,” Fessenden said. “There was some jousting around with the boats, but they didn’t cross the line.”
Sonksen said the Marine Patrol will continue to monitor the activities of all the parties involved “on a daily basis.”
“We have frequent conversations with fishermen about what they see and what’s happening,” he said.
One condition of the temporary protection from harassment order is that the Huppers not contact Babb.
The hearing to consider granting a continued protection from harassment order is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13, at 6th District Court in Rockland.
“There’s just too many fishermen down there. Too many traps in the water,” Fessenden said. “Too many problems, unfortunately.”