After hearing heated arguments from both sides of a shellfish licensing dispute, Tisbury selectmen at their Tuesday meeting voted to take no action regarding the question of revoking or suspending the license of commercial shellfisherman Tom Searle.
The case concerned two incidents, one on Nov. 26, 2012 and one on Jan. 8, 2013, for which Mr. Searle received citations from Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart. The November citation was for failure to allow the shellfish constable to inspect his catch and collecting scallops prior to the season opening. In January he was cited for failure to allow the shellfish constable to inspect his catch and commercial fishing in a residential area. In the latter case, witnesses testified on Mr. Searle’s behalf that the area in question was unmarked at the time.
In both cases, Mr. Searle was represented by his daughter, Ryan Searle, an attorney, who argued that Ms. Ewart had not followed proper citation procedure, including failure to have Mr. Searle sign the citations.
Mr. Searle’s case previously had been dismissed by Edgartown District Court clerk magistrate Liza Williamson for that reason. The decision of a state court cannot be overturned by the town, but because the court had not addressed the specific violations in question, the hearing before the board of selectmen could continue.
“We did talk with our town counsel, who said that absolutely the decision of the magistrate is not appealable, but our town counsel told us we could proceed with this hearing,” selectmen chair Tristan Israel said.
Although the selectmen kept the focus of the hearing narrow, the meeting nevertheless raised general questions from shellfishermen in the audience regarding the best way to address grievances over citations and harvesting regulations. Mr. Israel said shellfishing concerns could be directed to the selectmen or to the shellfish committee by creating an agenda item for either of the two groups’ meetings.
“I think this discussion’s healthy,” selectman Jeffrey Kristal said. “I think we learned a lot here tonight; this is a two-sided issue.”