It is reported that a confrontation between the U.S. Coast Guard and a fishing boat owned by Passamaquoddy Indians may begin a legal showdown to determine whether the Tribe has fishing rights in federal waters.
Two Eagles, a Passamaquoddy fishing company has been operating a fishing fleet of some 20 boats in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Banks. Two Eagles fishermen carry only permits issued by the tribal council. While Passamaquoddy fishermen are allowed access to permits to fish in some Maine state waters, Two Eagles has no federal fishing permits.
In August, a Two Eagles boat was stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard off Nantucket and cited for lacking federal permits and equipment. No fines were levied, according to a report on the incident in the Gloucester Times.
Later that month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent out a stern letter warning fishermen and dealers that the agency does not recognize Passamaquoddy claims to fish in federal waters. The letter stated that anyone who used tribal permits to fish in federal waters would face legal consequences.
Passamaquoddy Native Americans have long asserted the right to fish in all waters under 18th century treaties signed with the English and American governments. Those treaties supersede more current laws, argued Malsom, including the Magnuson-Stevens Act which governs federal fishing.
The state of Maine and the Passamaquoddy tribe have an agreement in place to allow tribal fishermen to fish in state waters, said George Lapointe, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Under state law, a limited number of licenses are issued by the tribe for lobster and urchin fishing. The arrangement has worked out well, Lapointe said.