Jul 8, 2005

Maine fishermen fight Navy assault ship plan.

Maine fishermen fight Navy assault ship plan.
Rockland. In an ironic departure from efforts to retain naval ships in Portsmouth, angry fishermen from one of Maine's top lobstering areas rounded on the US Navy today, filling the Rockland Harbormaster's office in a hastily called meeting and demanding that the USS Wasp , scheduled to make a courtesy call to the town during the Maine Lobster Festival, move its anchoring location from choice lobstergrounds north of the Rockland Breakwater either a half mile south (closer to the Breakwater Lighthouse) or to the anchorage traditionally used by visiting navy ships off Owls Head across the harbor which has little fishing activity.

While no Navy officials attended the meeting, the Navy's concern was said to be the existence on the harbor nautical chart of a submerged wreck that could entangle anchor lines or foul the deep draft vessel. The Wasp is an 840 foot long, 106 foot wide amphibious assault ship, drawing 26 and one half feet.

The fishermen say the carrier and its surrounding no-vessels-allowed security zone will block dozens of fishermen from their traps for up to a week.

Representatives of the US Coast Guard and Marine Patrol joined the fishermen and harbormaster at the meeting. Asked by the fishermen if they would compensate them for the lost earnings, festival promoters at the meeting said no. The harbormaster was similarly unwilling to discuss compensation.

The meeting ended with the following plan: the harbormaster will hire a professional diver to videodocument the site and a sonar sweep of the wreck area will be taken and recorded. The results will be sent on to the navy, if they show that the wreck on the local nautical chart has crumbled into the seafloor, in hopes that the Navy will review it and consider anchoring the Wasp in that area, instead of prime lobster grounds.

Regardless of the ultimate location of the USS Wasp, fishermen say that the heightened security around Navy vessels since 911 has made life a bit less pleasant whenever a navy vessel visits Rockland harbor. One harbor fisherman described the eerie sensation of being tracked by a watchful seaman wielding a 50 caliber machine gun last summer while fishing his traps near a visiting warship then.

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