Tisbury hears scallopers' complaints
Heated arguments erupted at the Tisbury selectmen's meeting Tuesday between selectmen chairman Tristan Israel and two shellfishermen who complained of too much - and too little - enforcement of shellfish regulations, at the start-up of scallop season on Lagoon Pond last weekend.
A few weeks after the death of shellfish constable Derek Cimeno on September 14, the selectmen, in anticipation of the shellfish department's increased workload during the upcoming scallop season, asked Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur to oversee the shellfish department's enforcement issues and administrative secretary Hillary Conklin to handle the administrative work, until January.
Jared Hammond and Michael Morris were hired as part-time, temporary, assistant shellfish constables, at the beginning of October.
Tuesday, Ms. Conklin reported that 172 bushels of scallops were harvested at Lagoon Pond last weekend. Recreational scalloping in Lagoon Pond opened October 31, and commercial fishing on November 2. Ms. Conklin said that Mr. Wilbur was a tremendous help to her.
Bill Alwardt of Oak Bluffs, however, complained that after Ms. Conklin inspected and approved some of his bushels, Mr. Wilbur allegedly said two of them were too high and entered his truck illegally to remove them. He accused Mr. Wilbur, who was not at the meeting, of overstepping his authority.
Mr. Israel told Mr. Alwardt that the harbormaster has the right to enforce shellfish regulations. He advised Mr. Alwardt to request a hearing at a later date before the shellfish management committee and the selectmen. "We can't get into it tonight," Mr. Israel said.
"You can't discriminate between residential and non-residential fishermen," Mr. Alwardt responded. "I've been picked on since day one."
Other complaints came from Tom Searle, a commercial shellfisherman who serves on the town's shellfish management committee. Mr. Searle described the current situation on Lagoon Pond as "mayhem," due to what he said was a lack of enforcement of shellfish regulations.
Obviously flustered by Mr. Searle's accusations, Mr. Israel struggled to respond, his voice rising as he took several minutes to defend the selectmen's actions in quickly putting personnel in place before scallop season opened.
"We didn't have time, we had to move, the season was here," Mr. Israel concluded.
"I think they were the wrong decisions - the people you hired are not qualified," Mr. Searle said.
Mr. Israel also advised him to request time on the agenda of a future meeting to discuss the selectmen's management of the shellfish department.
After another heated exchange with Mr. Israel about enforcement issues, Mr. Searle walked out angrily.
Later in the meeting, the selectmen voted to appoint Ms. Conklin the acting shellfish constable, retroactive to October 1, and until January 31.
Mr. Israel said that although Mr. Wilbur would not be the acting shellfish constable, he is authorized as the harbormaster to enforce shellfish violations anyway.
Selectman Geoghan Coogan pointed out that since Mr. Wilbur's role will be acting shellfish constable, Ms. Conklin will now oversee Mr. Wilbur in his role as an assistant to the shellfish department.
Mr. Israel and selectmen Jeffrey Kristal and Mr. Coogan voted to approve a search committee to seek applicants for a long-term shellfish constable. Mr. Kristal suggested the shellfish management committee should develop criteria for the candidates and work with Ms. Conklin and town administrator John Bugbee in the selection process.
In a phone call yesterday, Mr. Bugbee said he thought the selectmen selected Ms. Conklin as the acting shellfish constable, rather than Mr. Wilbur, because she has a better working knowledge of the shellfish department, after working as Mr. Cimeno's administrative assistant for 10 years.
"It's not a huge jump to go from her working knowledge of the administrative side to the working knowledge of the enforcement and regulations side," Mr. Bugbee said. "Mr. Wilbur is going to assist in her duties of being on the water and in enforcing the regulations. Ms. Conklin needs to have the ability to be on the water, in addition to being in the office, and Mr. Wilbur is going to help assist with that effort."
Mr. Bugbee, also the town personnel manager, said no mention was made of compensation for Ms. Conklin's additional duties at Tuesday meeting, because he will be evaluating the situation and making a recommendation to the selectmen, probably in the next two weeks.