EDMUNDS, Maine — Nine people were summoned recently for illegal boat moorings at the Edmunds Boat Launch in Cobscook Bay, the most productive scallop fishing area in the state.
Officials in Lubec and Pembroke put moratoriums on new boat moorings in November to deal with a loss of marina space following the December 2013 collapse of part of the breakwater pier in Eastport. A $15 million reconstruction project is now fully underway, but the marina there is completely closed to all boats except the U.S. Coast Guard.
Maine’s licensed scallop fishermen can go anywhere along the coast to drag or dive for the valuable bivalves, and have been known to crowd boat landings near where the fishing is best.
The mooring moratoriums, and the lack of space in Eastport, “led us to believe we would be the only game in town and therefore we would be overrun,” Edmunds Harbor Master Heron Weston said last week. As a result, the Washington County commissioners, acting as administrators for the unorganized territory, decided the state-owned property should join the list of other harbors with mooring moratoriums.
Weston said the harbor has 36 legal moorings but, on Jan. 18, there were 45 moorings. So a local municipal warden, hired specifically to enforce the moratorium, issued nine summonses for violating the order of the harbor master to fishermen from Machiasport, Harrington and Addison.
Warnings were issued Jan. 4, Weston said, giving fishermen who were in violation until Jan. 11 to leave. Because of weather and scheduling issues, they actually had until Jan. 18, Weston said.
Two boats left after receiving warnings but none of the nine who received a summons has left yet, Weston said.
“They’re still there,” he said Thursday.
He said no more summonses have been issued, and he does not plan to have any more issued.
Weston said the exact fine amount would be set by the judge, but that disobeying the order of the harbormaster is a Class E misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months behind bars and a fine of $1,000.
The harbor master said there’s been “some discussion” among charged fishermen over how to define a “new” mooring. Some of those summoned were claiming that they were in the harbor before the moratorium was established and thus had a right to a mooring.
The municipal warden issuing the summonses encouraged the fishermen to contact Weston if they believed they were ticketed in error.
Weston expects them all to be gone after scallop season ends, which Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Department of Marine Resources, said will be March 26.
Gary Smith of Machiasport, who has been scallop fishing out of the Edmunds Boat Launch since mid-December, said he received a summons but never got a warning.
He said he felt “irritated” because his ability to moor his boat is important to his livelihood.
The summons lists a court date of March 8, Smith said, adding he has no intention of moving his boat.
Scallop fisherman Curtis Haycock of Milbridge, who is a member of the Maine Scallop Advisory Council, said Wednesday he had not heard about summonses being issued in Edmunds.
Haycock, who moors his boat in Pembroke, said he has been getting $13 a pound for scallops this season, though some fishermen have been getting more.
“If you peddle them around, you can get more money for them,” he said, though he prefers to deal with the same buyer for quick sales.
He said it might be worth staying put in the harbor and paying the fine if the penalty is on the lower end of the scale, but that would be up to the individual fisherman.
Haycock said previously that the boat landing in Edmunds Township, at the western end of the bay, is a difficult option because of strong tides and narrow access points between that landing and the scalloping areas farther east.
He said Wednesday he had heard some boats experienced difficulties in the area during scallop season but he did not have any specific details.
Officials in neighboring Pembroke, which also adopted a moratorium, have not had police issue any summons, Second Selectman Milan Jamieson said Monday.
“People come in here and just drop anchor anywhere,” he said. However, because there is no clearly defined mooring area, no summonses have been issued. Next year this will be cleared up so summonses can be issued, he said.