Lake Street pier users protest commercial fishermen monopoly

The Lake Street pier and associated dingy dock was quiet late Tuesday. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Lake Street pier on Tashmoo Pond, the subject of previous discussions and rule-making intended to allow shared use of the facility, is creating waves for town officials.

Several commercial and recreational boat owners said that Tisbury harbor officials have allowed two Island commercial fishermen, Glenn Pachico and Jeff Canha, to consistently monopolize the pier, in violation of town regulations worked out to avoid such problems.

The aggrieved boat owners said harbor officials responsible for enforcing the regulations have ignored their complaints. Harbormaster Jay Wilbur downplayed the fuss, saying that he is unaware of any complaints.

The town pier and launch ramp tucked away at the end of Lake Street provides the public with access to Lake Tashmoo and Vineyard Sound. In addition to recreational and commercial fishermen, mooring owners, kayakers, and visiting boaters are among those who use the facility. As use of the pier has increased over the years, so have complaints and conflicts among different user groups.

Following a public hearing in May 2008, the Tisbury selectmen approved regulations proposed by the Tashmoo Management Committee (TMC) and Harbor Management Committee following discussions with commercial fishermen.

The regulations limit the use of the outside (west side) of the dock to 15 minutes for loading and unloading, or more with the permission of the harbormaster. Use of dock space along the bulkhead is limited to 20 minutes for loading and unloading, with the exception of licensed fishing boats, which may tie up there for up to two hours for active loading and offloading gear.

The regulations state, “Violations of docking time limits will be subject to a $25 fine. Repeated violations may result in the loss of mooring privileges.”

No rules

Glenn Pachico, a well-known commercial fisherman and owner of the “Mirage,” carves a life from the sea. Depending on the season, he may be fishing for horseshoe crabs, conch, or scallops.

Jeffrey Canha is a commercial fisherman who also runs a fishing charter service on his boat, Done Deal.

In the intimate world of the Tisbury waterfront, personal conflicts can create fault lines that many prefer to avoid. Several of those who spoke to The Times asked not to be identified for fear of future conflict.

Domingo (Mike) Canha, an appliance repair business owner and commercial fisherman for more than 20 years, was not afraid to speak frankly about what he described as his and other dock users’ frustration over their lack of access to the public pier.

“For three years, we’ve been fighting one guy, Glenn Pachico, that goes out in the morning, comes back in, and ties to the dock for the rest of the day,” Mr. Canha told The Times in a phone conversation. “The other one is Jeffrey Canha. He’s been tied there night and day.”

Jeffrey Canha is a distant cousin of Mike Canha.

Mike Canha said there are regulations, but they are not being enforced. His brother, Joe Canha, who also holds a commercial fishing license and frequents Lake Tashmoo almost daily, agrees.

“I think Mr. Pachico has different rules than everybody else down there,” Joe Canha told The Times. “There are enough regulations in place if the harbormaster’s department would enforce them, but they seem to look the other way.”

The brothers said they have brought their complaints to town officials, including town administrator John Bugbee. Mike Canha said he gave up complaining to town officials because nothing changed.

Richard Cascarino of West Tisbury, a recreational boater and mooring holder in Lake Tashmoo, told The Times that on several occasions he has found it difficult to bring his 40-foot sailboat alongside the dock because Done Deal and Mirage are tied up for long periods of time.

Mr. Cascarino said that town officials appear unwilling to enforce the regulations. “I have spoken to two of the assistant harbormasters as well as the harbormaster about it, and they don’t seem to be able to get those two guys to comply,” he said.

Mr. Cascarino said harbormaster Jay Wilbur appears unwilling to engage in any kind of dialogue with Mr. Pachico or Mr. Canha. “It may be that the harbormaster feels that on the list of priorities which he has, that’s pretty far down the list,” he said. “The last time I spoke to the harbormaster, he only agreed it was a problem, but he never really offered a decision to crack down on it.”

Benefit of the doubt

Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur told The Times in a phone conversation last week that no one has complained to him this year about anyone monopolizing the dock, and he does not see it as “a particularly pressing issue.”

“Do they [Glenn and Jeff] use it frequently? Absolutely,” Mr. Wilbur said. “Are they abusing it this year? If they are, it’s certainly not as much as in past years. My call is we’ve got a pretty good handle on it.”

Mr. Wilbur said he purchased a video surveillance system through a grant for the Lake Street pier that he can monitor from his Owen Park office. He said he regularly monitors the pier by camera and in person.

“Jeff [Canha] has been using the dock a little more often in the last week or two, because he’s been doing offshore trips that take extra preparation,” Mr. Wilbur said. “They can stay two hours or longer at the dock with permission from us. They’re busy guys. They fish hard. They are working very hard at their trade down there. I give them the benefit of the doubt.”

TMC chairman Melinda Loberg said although the committee has not received any direct complaints about the dock’s misuse, she knows the town manager has.

“I think people have every right to be outraged and complain,” Ms. Loberg said. “The town made regulations and now they are not willing to enforce them. We told the fishermen we wanted to straighten things out; we just don’t have enforcement responsibility or any authority. Our role is to advise, and we have advised everybody we can that enforcement is the key to it.”

Ms. Loberg said there has been a history of complaints about Mr. Pachico and Mr. Canha monopolizing the Lake Street pier. “They not only tie things up there, they are belligerent and threatening,” she said. “People give them a wide berth sometimes.”

Ms. Loberg said the harbormaster and his staff have been told if they are not comfortable with enforcing the pier regulations, they can enlist the aid of the Tisbury Police Department or the Dukes County Sheriff’s department, which have enforcement authority at Lake Tashmoo.

Town administrator John Bugbee told The Times he received a complaint several weeks ago, and another one in an email on Monday, which he passed on to Mr. Wilbur for enforcement. Mr. Bugbee forwarded The Times an email he received Monday afternoon from assistant harbormaster John Crocker, who said he had spoken to Mr. Pachico and Jeffrey Canha.

Mr. Crocker reported that Mr. Pachico’s boat broke down four days in a row and that he had called the harbormaster’s office to request more time at the dock. Mr. Canha apologized and said he would be more sensitive to the dock usage issue going forward, Mr. Crocker added.

Fishermen respond

Asked about the complaints about his overuse of the dock, Jeff Canha told The Times in a phone conversation Monday that his boat is never there any longer than it needs to be.

“I’m only there with permission from the harbormaster and the harbormaster’s assistant, with prior notification and speaking to them as a commercial vessel owner, in particular, due to mechanical issues with the vessel,” Mr. Canha said.

This week, according to those on the pier, Mr. Pachico was demanding to know who had complained to The Times.

In a telephone conversation Tuesday night, Mr. Pachico said his boat is at the dock every day, because he’s fishing every day. “Yes, my boat has been at the dock a lot,” he said. “But I’m not abusing it.”

Mr. Pachico said he has left his boat overnight when he has come in late and plans to leave early the next morning. “If I come in at 8 pm at night,” he said, “I’ve left the boat at the dock a couple of times when I’m planning to go back out early in the morning.”

He said that since May 15, he has fished 55 out of the last 72 days. Mr. Pachico said he communicates with the harbormaster’s office every time his boat is at the dock.

“As long as I call, for whatever reason, it’s legit,” he added. “If I need to work on my boat, I’m going to be at the dock. I’m not going to be rowing out to it on my mooring.”

Mr. Pachico said people who complain about boats at at the dock should know there may be reasons for it.

“I’m not going to move my boat when the tide is low and take a chance on damaging it,” he said. “I’ve already had the engine suck up rope and sand clog the intake, because there’s only two and a half feet of water there at low tide.”

Mr. Pachico disputed complaints about his behavior. “People shouldn’t judge me until they know me,” he said. “I can honestly swear on my brother’s soul that I’ve never bullied anyone and I try to help everybody.

“People call me loud; I call me passionate,” he said.