Waterfront: Lobster, Tuna and a Sunken Barge

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Site of the sunken barge in Newport Harbor
Site of the sunken barge in Newport Harbor

Every year when lobster season commences, 50 or more lobster traps with attached lines and a floating buoy encompass the area outside the Newport Harbor jetties.

We’ve returned from several Catalina trips in the evening and even though we are aware of the situation, one or two sharp turns to avoid tangling the propellers usually stuns the passengers aboard.

When I stopped by to visit with a commercial lobster fisherman unloading his catch at the end of the Rhine Channel, I asked if he was one of the responsible parties. His helper immediately asked, without answering my question, if I was responsible for becoming entangled in their gear which usually also causes them to lose their expensive traps. I did answer that I’ve never had such a problem but by his remark they are aware of this hazard.

Normally boaters receive VHF radio Coast Guard warnings or marine postings along with any other hazards to navigating our cruise areas.

While I’m on the subject of marine related affairs, let’s talk about the Yellowfin tuna fishery on the Cortez Bank some 50 miles west of Catalina Island. Folks were able to rod and reel this exotic species for a long time. It caused the avid local fisherman giddiness in being able to catch and eat fresh tuna with family and friends.

I was dismayed when a commercial purse-seiner was allowed to drop nets on the bank and remove tons of tuna in one day. Since that time the yellowfin have been spotty and a rare catch. What a shame.

Lastly, let’s talk about responsible vessel owners. In my last column I wrote about the sinking of the classic 80-foot tugboat the William B. There are local, state and federal laws, which are usually followed, to contain any adverse effects and raise and remove any sunken vessel and the navigational hazard. It usually takes a few days for the owner to agree on which bid to accept and a couple days for the salvage company to complete the project. This is the case with the William B which was towed afloat out of Newport Harbor within a week.

This is the exact opposite of the sunken dredge barge about 100 feet east of Lido Peninsula. This rusty steel barge has lain on state tidelands for more than two years. To my knowledge there is no Coast Guard notification posted of the hazard. The environmental damage is apparently ignored. This is a dangerous precedence.

[Ed. note: An email was sent to Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller seeking comment on the sunken barge. His reply: “Yes, the scow is still at its mooring. The scow is on the order of 150 tons (~300,000 pounds), so this is on the highly unusual spectrum of issue, not easy to pick up. It’s also extremely expensive for Shellmaker (the owner). It’s located in the double point mooring field, so it’s much less of a concern than, say, the William B’s former location. We’ve been working with Shellmaker all this year to figure out solutions. As of our most recent meeting last week, we established some firm actin plans and deadlines. They’ve managed to underwater cut/torch about 15 percent of the scow with the goal of lifting in sections. My goal is to have it removed within about 3-4 months]  

Sea Ya

Skipper Steve

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