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February 25, 2000     Cape Gazette
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February 25, 2000

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i6" : , t ........ . ................ CAE GE, F/iaay, Fbruary 25 - March 2, 2000 Concher Continued from page 1 permit was withdrawn and his application fee was refunded• But that action didn't go far enough for Auman, who says the entire lottery was tainted an.d should be held again in fairness to those qualified candidates who participated• Horseshoe crabs are the only bait used by watermen for their conch, or whelk, fishing • Conching, as it is commonly called, has become one of the most lucrative and stable fisheries of all those pursued by watermen. Conchs are in high demand for the Far East markets, and the relatively high prices fish- ermen receive for a pound of conch have proved stable over recent years. Auman also has lodged a complaint over the conch-permitting process currently used by the state fisheries section• As he ex- plains: "In 1994, state put a moratorium on issuing new conch fishing permits, because they wanted to study the horseshoe crab and conch populations to see what affect our industry has on them. Watermen had no gripes about that; we see the environmental need to study the fisheries• "In 1996, the state fisheries section de- cided to take applications for new conch permits, with the stipulation that there would be a five-year waiting period before any of the permits would be granted," Au- man explained. "Fine• People began putting their names on the list and waiting for 2001 to arrive so the permits could be issued• Last month, we learned the fisheries section had given a conch fishing permit to a water- man in Milton. How did that happen? His name wasn't on any of the waiting lists oth- er applicants had, and besides, the five-year period hasn't expired yet. This is a gross vi- olation of our rights• Something bad hap- pened here, and we're losing faith in the whole process." Lewes waterman Steve Copp, whose family has operated a fresh seafood retail shop for more than 20 years, is one waiting for the five-year waiting period to end. Up- on hearing of the permit granted to the Mil- ton waterman, he demanded answers from the fisheries section chief, Charles Lesser• "Lesser told me there is no waiting list," Copp said this week. "I showed him mine, with my name on it, and he demanded to know where I got it. What kind of reaction is that? It was the wrong one, as far as I'm concerned. I don't trust that section to han- dle anything anymore. If they're going to set these rules and regulations, they'd better abide by them. If not, we should just have a free-for-all and forget the state• As far as I'm concerned, our livelihood depends on Charlie Lesser, and I think it's time he re- tires and moves on." Auman sent a letter of complaint to Gov. Tom Carper after the questionable Jan. 4 horseshoe crab lottery• He received a Feb. 17 response from Laura Simmons, a con- stituent relations staffer in the Governor's office. Simmons' letter dismissed the com- plaint about the Jan. 4 lottery, saying the fisheries section was not aware the New Jersey man was ineligible to participate in the lottery. As for the case of the surprise conch permit and the missing waiting list, the Simmons letter said: "To the matter of the division's issuing a conch pot license to an applicant that did not meet the five-year waiting period requirement, it is evident the division's record keeping was less than ide- al. Per the advice of counsel, however, the division will improve (its) waiting list pro- cedures and documentation." The letter didn't satisfy Auman and Copp on either of the two complaints. "Here we are in the age of computers, and they're say- ing they lost the paperwork. It's outra- geous," said Auman. "If some of the fish- eries section's record keeping is less than ideal, then I've got to figure all of it is. We can't trust them, and that's the root of both these problems." Lesser said Thursday, Feb. 24, he sympa- thizes with a lot of the watermen's com- plaints about permitting, but the laws were made in General Assembly and he is simply following the legislative lead. "As for the waiting list, it's been lost and we're trying to fix that problem," said Less- er. "As for the conch permit that was is- sued, I'm not at liberty to discuss it, upon advice of counsel. But I can discuss the horseshoe crab lottery issue. I don't like the horseshoe crab lottery and don't think the principal of it is right. But we sat down Jim Cresson photo Charles Auman stands on the Mispillion Lighthouse dock beside his 40-foot oyster boat, Island Girl, and accuses the state fisheries sec- tion of unfair conduct in the way it issues permits for harvesting horse- shoe crabs and catching conchs, a lucrative product for watermen. with legislators and watermen years ago to figure exactly how to determine eligibility for the harvesting permits. We talked over a number of ways, but in the end, a lottery was the fairest way to go. It's tough, but it's the system we have in place." Auman said he wants to pursue the issues farther. "I want Dover to start paying atten- tion to this state's watermen," he said. "I want to sit down with the governor's people and get this straightened out." 2000 GALANT As Low As 2000, MONTERO SPORT 2000 ECLIPSE PICTURES OF CARS FOR EXAMPLE PURPOSE ONLY. 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