ROCKLAND, Maine — Cut traps, escalating tensions and the fear that their boat would be rammed drove two Tenants Harbor lobstermen to brandish a shotgun last week in self protection, according to documents filed Thursday in Rockland District Court.
Craig C. Hupper, 58, and his son, Joshua B. Hupper, 27, wrote in requests for temporary protection from harassment orders that their interactions with lobsterman Ty Babb, 36, of St. George had been hostile since at least the middle of September and that he had accused them of “crushing” his traps.
“Ty also said he was not going to take it anymore and that he could cause a lot of problems for us,” Craig Hupper wrote.
Hupper wrote that after some tense interactions and more traps being cut, Babb on Oct. 22 spotted him and his son while they were hauling traps.
“He came at us at a high rate of speed,” Craig Hupper wrote of last week’s incident. “I would say full throttle as if he was going to hit us broadside … I honestly believe he intended to hit us.”
Craig Hupper told his son to get the shotgun from the boat’s forward cabin, the elder Hupper wrote.
“The gun was at no time pointed at [Babb], but he could see that we had it,” he wrote.
Last week Babb successfully obtained a temporary protection from harassment order against the father and son because of that shotgun, writing in his request that he had watched Craig Hupper cut his traps and then heard him order “his son to pull a gun on me.”
As part of the order, the Huppers must stay away from Babb, at least until the hearing for a final protection order is held in November. There is no mention of firearms in the temporary order.
Judge Patricia Worth denied the requests for the temporary protection harassment orders of Craig Hupper and Joshua Hupper, in part because she found that the allegations in the sworn complaint were “insufficient” to prove the two were in “immediate and present danger of physical abuse” from Babb.
All three lobstermen are scheduled to have hearings on their requests for protection orders at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in Rockland District Court. At that time, Babb is scheduled to have a hearing for a final protection from harassment orderthat would last for a fixed length of time.
The Huppers also will have the chance to make a case for a final protection from harassment order at that time in the court.
A protection from harassment order prohibits a person from having contact with the complainant for up to a year.
After the Oct. 22 incident, the Maine Marine Patrol stepped up its patrols of the area, Sgt. Marlowe Sonksen said earlier this week. All the parties involved in the firearm incident have kept the agency informed of trap problems they have had, he said.
The shotgun incident is the latest in a string of high-profile trouble for lobstermen in western Penobscot Bay. In July, a Matinicus lobsterman was shot in the neck in an altercation on the island, and in August, three lobster boats were vandalized and two of them sunk in Owls Head harbor.
In his lengthy description of the events that led to pulling out the shotgun, Craig Hupper wrote that he and his son have lost 400 traps to vandalism, and that they had found more than 100 roofing nails scattered around the entrance to their dock and on the road that leads to their homes in the village of Martinsville.
The damage to his gear this fall has added up to $30,000, Hupper said in the documents.
“It takes someone with a terrible temper to do that amount of damage,” Craig Hupper wrote.
Babb, who disputes the Huppers’ version of last week’s events, said Friday night that the real problem was not the gun.
“The issue is that we don’t have open lines of communication, so that neither party can figure out what’s going on,” he said. “It’s a big mess, and I wish we’d gotten it ironed out long before we got into the spot we’re in now.”
Tenants Harbor where the Huppers live and St. George where Babb lives are villages in the town of St. George.