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128-foot fishing vessel burns off Whidbey Island

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – Mussel harvesting has been suspended until further notice in Whidbey Island’s world-renowned Penn Cove after a 128-foot derelict fishing vessel anchored there burst into flames late Saturday, officials said.

Richard Walker of the state Department of Ecology said the mussel farm operations were suspended as a precaution while investigators make certain that no pollution has reached the mussel pens from the burning vessel. The investigation is being conducted by the state Health Department, he said.

Rawle Jefferds, co-owner of Penn Cove Shellfish, says the potential for damage is substantial. He said the company will not harvest mussels unless it is 100 percent certain that there is absolutely zero contamination.

“We suspended it. We’re not going to harvest out of Penn Cove until we can get things certified,” he said.

The financial impact is already being felt, Jefferds said.

“We’ve got employees that don’t get to go to work, we’ve got no harvest,” he said. “The actual costs, I couldn’t begin to estimate.”

He said the company has carefully built its reputation for a quality product over the years, and now ships shellfish all around the world.

The fishing boat Deep Sea caught fire late Saturday and continued burning all night and next morning, the Coast Guard reported.

Witnesses said a sheen could be seen on the water’s surface near the boat, and it appeared to be floating toward the mussel pens.

Fire boats and a Coast Guard vessel responded to the scene, in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday after receiving a report from 911 dispatchers that the vessel was completely engulfed in flames.

Crews attempted to put the fire out but stopped when it appeared that water from firefighting efforts had caused the boat to list. Officials say they were worried that more water would cause the boat to sink.

As soon as the firefighting efforts were ceased, the fire flared up again and was still smoldering as of noon Sunday. The boat is considered a total loss.

A Coast Guard vessel remains at the scene to provide a 200-yard safety zone around the vessel.

Walker said the Deep Sea is classified as a non-operational vessel, without an engine or propellers, and no one was aboard at the time of the fire. The boat was towed to Penn Cove last December.

The owner of the vessel has been notified, and an environmental contractor has been hired to clean up and place a double containment boom around the ship.

The contractor will also attempt to board the ship and pump out 50 to 100 gallons of diesel fuel that remains in the fuel tank, Walker said.


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Women’s ‘fishing university’ opens doors

Sue Fields Tolliver wants a hobby to de-stress from graduate school at Nova Southeastern University. Belinda Martin would like to go trolling offshore aboard her 23-foot boat in the Turks Caicos Islands. Kathryn Feanny of Fort Lauderdale wants to spend more quality time with her husband.

The three women were among 50 who attended a recent “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!” weekend saltwater seminar in Dania Beach. The seminar series, now in its 16th year, is the brainchild of Fort Lauderdale marketing executive Betty Bauman. Billed as the women’s “fishing university;” and the “no-yelling” school of fishing, it has drawn about 6,000 women of all ages who want to learn more about sport fishing in a friendly, noncompetitive environment.

“We get a lot of people who never fished before,” Bauman said. “They need somebody to open the door and give them a helping hand.”

The recent Dania seminar was a three-day affair with a welcome party, a day full of lectures, demonstrations and hands-on skill stations, followed by a half-day fishing adventure.

Students learned basics from captain Lee Lavery — such as the differences between conventional and spinning gear; various effective baits; and why a five-gallon bucket is a vital piece of equipment to carry on a boat.

“You never want to go fishing without a bucket,” Lavery said. “If you need to tinkle, use the bucket. Buckets are 12 inches across; you can measure your yellowtail across the bucket — and it carries a lot of things.”

The women learned about the addictive powers of inshore fishing from part-time captain Lou Volpe.

“I am warning you ladies that you are sliding down a slippery slope,” Volpe said, half-joking. “A lot of family occasions were missed by me because it was good weather for fishing. Fly-fishing is another drug. I’m trying to limit my crazy.”

And captain Tony DiGuilian told the women — after explaining elementary offshore trolling tactics: “Get as much information as you can from events like this. Start with one thing and get pretty good at it before you go on to the next thing. There’s very little luck in fishing. The people who really work at it are the most successful at it. You can be just as good or better than men. Women compete in tournaments all around the world and beat the men’s butts on a consistent basis.”

After lunch and a fishing fashion show, the women divided into smaller groups and visited skill stations where they used various hand-held devices for releasing fish alive; rigged bally hoo for trolling; threw a cast net to catch live bait; learned how to cast spinning and fly rods; tied several kinds of fishing knots; practiced gaffing a fish using a floating grapefruit; and learned how to back a boat on a trailer safely down a ramp, and how to drive and dock the boat.

Tolliver was glad to learn the difference between circle hooks — which hook a fish in the corner of the mouth — and j-hooks, which can injure fish from becoming stuck in their throats or gills. The knowledge is important for releasing unwanted or undersized fish unharmed.

“I plan to go to the piers and Lake Okeechobee,” the doctoral student in trauma psychology said. “I need activities that are de-stressing to me, and I love fishing.”

Tolliver said she grew up fishing in freshwater, but she didn’t learn much because her mother baited her hook, tied knots and handled the fish.

“All I did was reel it in,” she said.

Tolliver said her husband isn’t interested in fishing, but “I think if I’m bringing home eating fish, he will want to come.”

The women looked to be making good progress at the skill stations.

With some instruction from Chuck Baldwin, Martin successfully gaffed a grapefruit bobbing in the canal outside I.T Parker Community Center where the seminar was held.

“I thought it would be a lot harder than it actually was for the first time,” Martin said.

An organizer of fishing tournaments in the Turks Caicos Islands, Martin says she frequently gets invited on offshore big-game trolling trips.

“The guys like to take me, but they won’t teach me fishing,” she said. “We go out and everything is done. They’ve already chosen the lures and the bait.”

Bauman doesn’t expect women to emerge from her seminars as angling experts. But she hopes they build confidence and become more effective fishing team members.

“When they’re done with us, they’re more confident, going to a tackle shop and saying, ‘I’d like to buy this lure to catch a mackerel,’ ” Bauman said. “If the lady can do a bit more and is part of the team, tying on her own hooks, she gets more respect.”


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North Carolina fishing boat brings a rarity to Cape May’s Lobster House: Nearly 13,000 pounds of swordfish

CAPE MAY — Word was out — a transient fishing boat had hit a swordfish bonanza out in the Gulf Stream off Cape May and the North Carolina boat was coming to the Lobster House dock to unload.

The 60-foot Big Eye was loaded with almost 13,000 pounds of swordfish, 3,000 pounds of mahi mahi and 2,000 pounds of tuna. It found the hot spot 160 miles out and caught the fish in just six days. A previous trip got a similar load of fish, but it took 16 days. The boat wanted to unload and get back out fishing.

“We got some special fish because we got big fish. Nobody else has got them,” Big Eye Capt. Chris “Chompers” Hanson, 39, of Wanchese, N.C., said.

Hanson, who has been swordfishing for 14 years, and is featured on Discovery Channel’s “Swords: Life On The Line”, has seen the good days and the bad days. Friday was a good one for him and the Lobster House dock.

It’s a side of the commercial fishing industry the public doesn’t know much about. The Lobster House has its own boats, and buys some seafood for its fish market and restaurant patrons, but sometimes other boats, some from a long way away, fill their holds off the New Jersey coast and head to the nearest dock to unload, or as they call it, “pack out.” When they cash in, so does everybody else.

“It’s the trickle-down effect,” dock owner Keith Laudeman said.

A local trucker will haul the fish to market. The boat needs fuel, ice for freezing fish and food for its crew. There are handling fees, and the crew of the Big Eye will likely spend some money in the local economy.

On Friday morning, the dock was buzzing with activity as dockworkers hauled swordfish, the largest weighing an estimated 550 pounds, out of the Big Eye. Forklifts moved the fish around as workers iced them down. A refrigerated box truck came in to haul the fish to market.

A fish broker from Boston arrived to check out the catch and get ready to move it up a chain that will mean a healthy payday all around.

“By the time it gets to the plate, a dinner table or a restaurant, it could be six different hands going up the chain,” said Charlie DiPesa, who works for F.J. O’Hara Sons, the Boston wholesaler buying the catch.

The federal government says seafood will generally increase sixfold in value as it makes its way from boat to consumer. It can depend on the condition of the fish, the current market price and how much it gets moved around.

DiPesa said this catch will head to Boston on Sunday morning but some could be then be sold to markets in New York, Baltimore or Philadelphia. He could only give approximate values for Big Eye owner/operators Hanson and Anna Strawser, who will then dole out shares to the four members of the crew.

“It depends on the condition and the market. I’d say $5 to $6 per pound back to the boat for the swordfish, $3 a pound for the small tuna and $10 for the large tuna, and $3 to $3.25 for the mahi mahi,” said DiPesa.

At $6 a pound, the largest fish would be worth $3,300 to the Big Eye and almost $20,000 by the time it is eaten.

Fishermen will unload in their home port if they are fishing nearby. Swordfish have a pretty large range, heading south in winter and north in summer, so boats often unload in other ports. Hanson said he fishes as far south as Puerto Rico in the winter and north to the Grand Banks off New England in summer. He uses a method known as long-lining that employs lines of baited hooks set out from the vessel.

The scale wasn’t big enough to weigh the largest fish. Hanson said he had six swords over 400 pounds and 10 more than 200 pounds. The port of Barnegat Light has a swordfish fleet and is used to such sights. Hanson noted the Barnegat Light boat Frances Ann is also catching big swordfish offshore. But the port of Cape May doesn’t have a large long-line fleet and Laudeman said he hadn’t seen so many big swordfish since the 1970s. It drew other fishermen to the dock.

“It’s been 20 years since we saw fish like this,” Peter Hughes, of Atlantic Capes Fisheries, said as he took pictures on his cell phone.

Penny Rickenback, a Pennsylvania artist who comes to the dock in the mornings to paint watercolors, was also excited, though she said she has seen gigantic halibut unloaded from a boat in Alaska.

“I think it’s tremendously exciting. It’s amazing they still catch them that big,” Rickenback said.

That could be part of the swordfish success story. The fish was in trouble a quarter-century ago, due mostly to overfishing by other countries. Swordfish are caught by about 50 different countries and managed by an international body called ICCAT, or International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. In 1987, the average swordfish caught was just 56 pounds and they don’t spawn until they reach at least 100 pounds. In 1991, spawning stocks were 40 percent of 1978 levels.

The U.S. was at the forefront of conservation efforts and now stocks are fully restored. U.S. catches are up 40 percent since 2006, though landings are still about 1,000 metric tons below the country’s 3,907 metric ton annual quota. A lot of boats stopped fishing for them during the lean years and have been slow to return.

Strawser said they would head back out as soon as they can get ready. She also said they wouldn’t hesitate to pack out here again.

“It’s a nice fish house — a really nice set-up,” she said.

Contact Richard Degener:

609-463-6711

RDegener@pressofac.com


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Fishing boat runs aground near Neah Bay

The operator called for help about 3:30 a.m. and said he had fallen asleep and that the 37-foot vessel was taking on water.

A 47-foot Coast Guard motor lifeboat from Neah Bay responded but was unable to pull alongside in the shallow water, so the three fishermen had to swim to the boat. They were checked paramedics on shore and released.

A Coast Guard spokesman, Chief Robert Lanier in Seattle, says no fuel leaked from the fishing boat. It did not sink and can be salvaged.


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Charity givens ten fishing boats to Sri Lankan village

TEN boats bearing the names of the Island’s parishes have been donated to poverty-stricken fishermen in Sri Lanka whose lives were shattered by the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 and civil war.

Over £24,000 was raised in the Island by Jersey-based charity JETSURE (Jersey Tsunami Relief for North East Sri Lanka) after the tsunami killed up to 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.

The fund-raising was organised by the charity’s committee led by Dr Saravana Pavan, a former associate specialist and surgeon in orthopaedics and trauma at the General Hospital.

‘Some of the fishermen who received the boats were in tears – it was very rewarding to be able to support them in this way’ he said.


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Fishing boat hits breakwall – Ashtabula Star

May 12, 2012

Fishing boat hits breakwall


By WARREN DILLAWAY – warren@starbeacon.com



Staff Writer
The Star Beacon


Sat May 12, 2012, 09:00 AM EDT

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
A leisurely fishing trip turned into a harrowing experience for five men Friday evening when their boat hit a breakwall adjacent to Lake Shore Park.

The boat engine stalled and while the men on board attempted to change an engine filter, the vessel struck the breakwall, according to a boater and Petty Officer Second Class Bill Campbell of the Ashtabula Station of the U.S. Coast Guard. Two of the men were able to get off the boat and onto the breakwall while the other three stayed in the boat, according to Campbell.

“The vessel became disabled outside the breakwall and hit the rocks,” Campbell said. He said the call came into the Coast Guard station at 6:59 p.m.

“We launched our 25-foot response vessel. When we arrived a Good Samaritan vessel had already begun to tow the boat to shore,” Campbell said.

He said two occupants left the boat and walked about a quarter of a mile on the breakwall back to shore.

“We had notified the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the (Ashtabula County) dive rescue and a (Coast Guard) helicopter from Buffalo,” Campbell said. After it was clear everyone was safe the dive team and helicopter were called off and a representative of ODNR Division of Watercraft arrived to talk with the men.

Ashtabula Township Fire Department responded to the scene but nobody was transported, Campbell said.

The Ashtabula Station Coast Guard crew did a routine safety inspection of the vessel.

“This is a happy story,” Campbell said.

“That was a scary feeling,” said passenger Jackson Ashley of Cleveland.

Dan Addair, of Kingsville Township, was one of the two passengers able to reach the breakwall.

The assisting vessel was able to safely tow the boat to the Lake Shore Park boat launch area where the men were met by the Coast Guard crew, Campbell said.

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Filipino-Chinese ocean comradery fades amid row

For years Filipino and Chinese fishermen peacefully shared the rich harvests around a tiny South China Sea shoal, but today threats, harassment and fear have replaced ocean comradery.

While Filipino fishermen still ply their trade at Scarborough Shoal about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippine coastal town of Masinloc, they say rifle-brandishing Chinese personnel on rubber boats are intimidating them.

Shortly after returning from two weeks at the shoal, crewmen from a 15-metre (50-foot)-long outrigger, said the Chinese shadowed them whenever they sought to fish inside the shoal.

“They sent their rubber boats to follow us and circle our vessel. They didn’t make threats but it was dangerous because sometimes we almost collided,” boat mechanic Glenn Valle, 40, told AFP.

“We were afraid because all the boats were moving and they were sticking close to us, close enough to touch our outriggers.”

Fishing boat captain Zaldy Gordones, 34, said each Chinese rubber vessel carried about eight men in grey camouflage uniforms with rifles and long-lensed cameras, which they used to photograph the Filipinos.

The rubber boats were deployed by Chinese surveillance ships that have been posted near the mouth of Scarborough for more than a month to assert China‘s claim over the rocky outcroppings, according to the Filipinos.

The Philippines says the shoal is part of its territory because it falls within its exclusive economic zone.

But China claims as its historical territory virtually all of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop huge oil and gas reserves as well as being home to important fishing grounds.

The nearest major Chinese landmass to Scarborough Shoal is 1,200 kilometres northwest of the shoal, according to Filipino navy maps, but China insists it discovered the area first and thus has legal claim to it.

The rival claims flared into a major diplomatic dispute on April 8 when Philippine authorities accused Chinese fishermen of taking endangered species, such as clams and corals, from the area.

Philippine efforts to arrest the fishermen were thwarted when two Chinese surveillance vessels arrived at the scene.

Since then, non-military ships from both countries have been deployed there in a war of nerves between the two governments that has severely tested their diplomatic relations.

Fishermen from Masinloc have been making the journey to the shoal for two decades, a trip that can take eight to 14 hours depending on sailing conditions.

The waters around the shoal are renowned for the rich bounties of fish, which congregate around the rocky outcroppings.

While coastal areas have been largely depleted, the Filipinos know they can return from a trip to the shoal with boats packed with anchovies, tuna and scad.

Despite the rival claims, boats from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and other countries all regularly visited the shoal, which is also a refuge during bad weather, according to Masinloc residents.

The fishermen used hand signals to communicate, said boat mechanic Valle, recalling how they would ask Chinese crew for help.

“If we wanted to ask for water, we just held up a container and made a drinking motion and they would give us water,” Valle said, adding the Vietnamese were even more generous.

“They gave us rice and noodles even if we didn’t give them anything.”

Masinloc’s local fisheries officer, Jerry Escape, said stories were common of fishermen from different countries bartering food, water and cigarettes with each other.

“There has been no ill-treatment of any fishermen reported,” he said.

But Chinese fishermen also had a reputation for taking marine species that were protected under Philippine law such as sea turtles, corals and giant clams, according to Masinloc people.

“For our fishermen, there are things that are prohibited but for the Chinese, nothing is prohibited. They take what they want,” said Nestor Daet, 55, local head of a volunteer environment protection group, Sea Guardians.

Masinloc fishermen were warned to avoid the shoal to keep from getting caught in any possible crossfire immediately after the stand-off began.

But there was no ban and Masinloc coastguard deputy officer Norman Banug said he now even encouraged them to go back out there.

“If (the Chinese) see no Filipinos fishing there, they will think they can take over that area,” he said.


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North Carolina fishing boat brings nearly 13,000 pounds of swordfish to the Lobster House

CAPE MAY — Word was out — a transient fishing boat had hit a swordfish bonanza out in the Gulf Stream off Cape May and the North Carolina boat was coming to the Lobster House dock to unload.

The 60-foot Big Eye was loaded with almost 13,000 pounds of swordfish, 3,000 pounds of mahi mahi and 2,000 pounds of tuna. It found the hot spot 160 miles out and caught the fish in just six days. A previous trip got a similar load of fish, but it took 16 days. The boat wanted to unload and get back out fishing.

“We got some special fish because we got big fish. Nobody else has got them,” Big Eye Capt. Chris “Chompers” Hanson, 39, of Wanchese, N.C., said.

Hanson, who has been swordfishing for 14 years, and is featured on Discovery Channel’s “Swords: Life On The Line”, has seen the good days and the bad days. Friday was a good one for him and the Lobster House dock.

It’s a side of the commercial fishing industry the public doesn’t know much about. The Lobster House has its own boats, and buys some seafood for its fish market and restaurant patrons, but sometimes other boats, some from a long way away, fill their holds off the New Jersey coast and head to the nearest dock to unload, or as they call it, “pack out.” When they cash in, so does everybody else.

“It’s the trickle-down effect,” dock owner Keith Laudeman said.

A local trucker will haul the fish to market. The boat needs fuel, ice for freezing fish and food for its crew. There are handling fees, and the crew of the Big Eye will likely spend some money in the local economy.

On Friday morning, the dock was buzzing with activity as dockworkers hauled swordfish, the largest weighing an estimated 550 pounds, out of the Big Eye. Forklifts moved the fish around as workers iced them down. A refrigerated box truck came in to haul the fish to market.

A fish broker from Boston arrived to check out the catch and get ready to move it up a chain that will mean a healthy payday all around.

“By the time it gets to the plate, a dinner table or a restaurant, it could be six different hands going up the chain,” said Charlie DiPesa, who works for F.J. O’Hara Sons, the Boston wholesaler buying the catch.

The federal government says seafood will generally increase sixfold in value as it makes its way from boat to consumer. It can depend on the condition of the fish, the current market price and how much it gets moved around.

DiPesa said this catch will head to Boston on Sunday morning but some could be then be sold to markets in New York, Baltimore or Philadelphia. He could only give approximate values for Big Eye owner/operators Hanson and Anna Strawser, who will then dole out shares to the four members of the crew.

“It depends on the condition and the market. I’d say $5 to $6 per pound back to the boat for the swordfish, $3 a pound for the small tuna and $10 for the large tuna, and $3 to $3.25 for the mahi mahi,” said DiPesa.

At $6 a pound, the largest fish would be worth $3,300 to the Big Eye and almost $20,000 by the time it is eaten.

Fishermen will unload in their home port if they are fishing nearby. Swordfish have a pretty large range, heading south in winter and north in summer, so boats often unload in other ports. Hanson said he fishes as far south as Puerto Rico in the winter and north to the Grand Banks off New England in summer. He uses a method known as long-lining that employs lines of baited hooks set out from the vessel.

The scale wasn’t big enough to weigh the largest fish. Hanson said he had six swords over 400 pounds and 10 more than 200 pounds. The port of Barnegat Light has a swordfish fleet and is used to such sights. Hanson noted the Barnegat Light boat Frances Ann is also catching big swordfish offshore. But the port of Cape May doesn’t have a large long-line fleet and Laudeman said he hadn’t seen so many big swordfish since the 1970s. It drew other fishermen to the dock.

“It’s been 20 years since we saw fish like this,” Peter Hughes, of Atlantic Capes Fisheries, said as he took pictures on his cell phone.

Penny Rickenback, a Pennsylvania artist who comes to the dock in the mornings to paint watercolors, was also excited, though she said she has seen gigantic halibut unloaded from a boat in Alaska.

“I think it’s tremendously exciting. It’s amazing they still catch them that big,” Rickenback said.

That could be part of the swordfish success story. The fish was in trouble a quarter-century ago, due mostly to overfishing by other countries. Swordfish are caught by about 50 different countries and managed by an international body called ICCAT, or International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. In 1987, the average swordfish caught was just 56 pounds and they don’t spawn until they reach at least 100 pounds. In 1991, spawning stocks were 40 percent of 1978 levels.

The U.S. was at the forefront of conservation efforts and now stocks are fully restored. U.S. catches are up 40 percent since 2006, though landings are still about 1,000 metric tons below the country’s 3,907 metric ton annual quota. A lot of boats stopped fishing for them during the lean years and have been slow to return.

Strawser said they would head back out as soon as they can get ready. She also said they wouldn’t hesitate to pack out here again.

“It’s a nice fish house — a really nice set-up,” she said.

Contact Richard Degener:

609-463-6711

RDegener@pressofac.com


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Fishing boat missing from Turkey Point recovered

No word on where it was found, but Norfolk OPP say a 14-foot fishing board taken from a Turkey Point address sometime last month has been recovered.

The fishing boat with a bright red wooden haul and a yellow interior with the word “Madmac” painted on the starboard side is worth 500-dollars.

It was reported missing from an Ordnance avenue location.

Now, police say as a result of ‘an alert citizen’, the vessel has been recovered and returned to it’s rightful owner.


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Lobster Fishing Hostilities Lead To Boat Sinkings In Maine

FRIENDSHIP, Maine — The sinking of two lobster boats is rekindling memories of hostilities among lobstermen two years ago that led to a near-fatal shooting, boats being sunk and a barrage of lobster trap vandalism along Maine’s lobster-rich coast.

Someone this week sabotaged two lobster boats, allowing them to drift free and flood with water before washing ashore in this postcard-pretty harbor. The dispute has shone a light on the unwritten rules of the sea, where fishermen often take matters into their own hands to settle grudges.

Lobstermen for generations have cut trap lines and shouted threats to settle differences over who can set their traps where. In more extreme instances, they’ve been known to ram boats and fire warning shots into the air.

The vandalism crossed the line late Monday night, when the 28-foot Lobstah Taxi and the 35-foot Fantaseas were sunk. Only a portion of the larger boat’s cabin was above water when it was found Tuesday morning on an island outside the harbor. The smaller boat was found on a mainland beach, but escaped serious damage.

Investigators don’t know if the attacks were the result of a personal vendetta or a territorial feud. At the least, they’ve brought unwanted attention to this fishing community 75 miles northeast of Portland.

“It’s sad, awful sad,” said lobsterman Doug Simmons, 60, as he worked on his gear Thursday in preparation for setting his traps in the coming weeks. “It’s cost people a lot of money.”

The boats were owned by Gary Jones and his 15-year-old son, Logan, who live in the neighboring town of Cushing, said Marine Patrol Sgt. Rene Cloutier, who is investigating with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“There’s nothing that says this is a territorial thing,” Cloutier said. “It could be, but nothing points that way now.”

Gary Jones has been on the receiving end of vandalism before. In 2010, another Cushing lobsterman was charged with cutting 22 of his lobster buoys. At the time, Jones said trap and gear vandalism had cost him nearly $10,000 over three years.

Gary Jones’ wife, Tina Jones, said she and her husband aren’t commenting on this week’s incident, adding that her husband and son are hard-working fishermen.

“People are looking at us and thinking if that happened to us we must be bad-assed people,” she said.

This week’s boat sinkings are bringing back memories of 2010, when hostilities especially were in high gear.

On remote Matinicus Island, 20 miles offshore, a lobsterman fired a handgun at two fellow lobstermen, hitting one in the neck in a near-fatal dispute over lobster traps. A jury later found Vance Bunker not guilty of elevated aggravated assault.

Two weeks after the shooting, someone sank two lobster boats and damaged a third in Owls Head, another midcoast fishing harbor. Throughout the summer, police investigated a rash of complaints about lobster trap lines being cut, resulting in lost lobster gear.

Last year was relatively calm, but the sinkings in Friendship are raising questions about whether this coming summer will be heated.

For now, there aren’t any indicators that tensions are ready to erupt, “knock on wood,” said Marine Patrol Maj. Alan Talbot.

“Hopefully it’s just a random thing,” he said. “But who knows what’s to come.”

Gary Jones’ boat was taken to a boatyard in Owls Head for repairs. His son’s boat sits on boat jacks at Lash Boatyard in Friendship.

Lobstermen in town are a reticent bunch, but they’ll tell you they think the perpetrator was from somewhere other than Friendship. The Joneses are from Cushing and don’t even fish the waters off Friendship, they say.

“You might be able to say this was a Friendship thing if he fished here – but he don’t,” said lobsterman Kendall Delano as he sanded his trap buoys in a waterfront building.

Wesley Lash, who works for his father at the boatyard, said the sinkings don’t reflect well on this sleepy town, which has about 1,200 residents, just a single store and not even a traffic light.

“It gives Friendship a bad name,” he said. “People’ll say Friendship, that doesn’t sound like a friendly place.”

Lash’s father, also named Wesley, said there have been feuds as long as there’s been a lobster industry.

“You go from Portsmouth (N.H.) to Eastport and it’s the same thing,” he said.

Still, Friendship gets its share of feuding.

Simmons remembers years ago when somebody slammed a crowbar through the hull of another boat, causing it to sink. This past winter, somebody fired a shot from a high-powered rifle into the hull of a lobster boat, Cloutier said. The shooting is under investigation.

“It happened late at night, nobody saw anything and Friendship is a pretty tight-lipped community,” he said.

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