from an article in the Portsmouth Herald.
Kittery Port Authority under fire for ‘racist’ action
Resident alleges officials spurning Asian fishermen
KITTERY, Maine — A town resident blasted the Kittery Port Authority on Monday night for shutting down nocturnal squid fishing at the town piers, saying the action is “bordering on racist” because most of the fishermen are Asian.
The chairman of the KPA later strongly contested the accusation, saying the KPA’s motivation is solely to stop fishermen from defacing public and private property.
Meanwhile, the Town Council has postponed action on reappointing KPA member Barry Bush and is calling for a meeting with the KPA on Sept. 8. Several councilors expressed growing concern about this and other actions by the authority.
At the council meeting Monday night, resident James Forbes said the KPA has overstepped its authority in prohibiting squid fishing at Pepperrell Cove — which is largely done at night when lights are used to attract squid near the surface.
Forbes said he has been squid fishing there for several years, and he has always found the largely Asian squidders to be “polite, thoughtful and generally quiet people. They sit on their buckets or coolers and quietly jig away.”
He said he watched videotapes of recent KPA meetings that “could lead one to suspect that this is a ‘good old boy’ attitude toward strangers. The comments about them ‘not reading English’ and ‘those people’ are narrow minded, elitist and … bordering on racist. I don’t use that word casually.”
But KPA Chairman Bob Melanson said later Monday night that the actions of the KPA have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with defacing property. When the squid come to the surface, they can spray ink, which he said has left marks on the new $300,000 float system and ramp as well as on boats.
“It has nothing to do with racial profiling and has an awful lot to do with squid expelling ink and causing a public nuisance,” Melanson said.
He cites the KPA rules and regulations which state that the police or port authority may shut down the piers “when it is warranted by acts of vandalism or disturbance of the peace and threats to natural resources.”
Melanson said he is also concerned about the fact that squid fishermen disturb the peace of local residents, as they often do not arrive until late at night and remain until 3 or 4 in the morning.
“I’ve had different harbormasters at 0300 hours attempting to address this problem,” he said.
Forbes said he’s read the same rules and regulations and it “does not give them the authority to selectively close the dock to specific activities, especially to specific fish species.”
Melanson said the KPA expects to hold a public hearing at its next meeting on Sept. 4.
In other business
Old Post Road resident Robert McDonough said he “wants to put a formal complaint in” about what he called a derelict property on the road owned by James Dineen. Councilors have in the past also talked about the condition of this property.
“It’s a very dangerous building that is basically falling in on itself,” McDonough said. He said he is concerned mostly about safety, but also about property values.
Chairman Jeff Thomson, who also lives on Old Post Road, said “I share your pain, sir.” He said the council met in executive session that night to discuss legal action with regard to that property and said the town’s attorney is going to pursue what legal avenues are available to the town with regard to taking action.