ALLISON STERN

This picture taken from the deck of the Emma McCall shows the Allison during the open-water incident that has drawn in local state departments and elected officials. Hahn and at least one crew member aboard the McCall offered conflicting reports as to who was the aggressor and what intentions were during the fracas.

Local fishermen, wind energy representatives and now local elected officials and state departments are searching for the answers that will allow cohabitation between newcomers to the coastal waters and those who have called the area home for generations.

Earlier this month, a research vessel contracted by US Wind and a ship owned by local fisherman Jimmy Hahn squared off several miles offshore while the research vessel — the Emma McCall — allegedly trolled through conch pots that Hahn had deployed.

After last week when US Wind representatives seemed to be cooperating with Hahn, there has been some pushback now from the crew of the McCall.

One crew member, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his position as a contractor, was indignant over the characterization that the larger McCall was bullying the Allison, Hahn’s boat.

Ocean City Today reviewed and confirmed his credentials as an experienced contractor who was on board the McCall during the standoff.

“Before the incident happened, we first tried to survey in (our lease area) but it was too rough. We then tried to work … from the northwest corner of the lease area heading northwest but found buoys,” the contractor said. “There were no buoys anywhere to be seen in this area.”

He said those who were on the bridge of the McCall had an excellent vantage point of what was occurring.

The contractor said the Allison prevented their leaving, which directly contradicts Hahn’s account that the McCall wouldn’t leave despite pleas to do so.

The contractor also disputed that the pots were damaged and that it could be as many as 250 pots.

“No pots were destroyed that day or throughout my time on the McCall,” he said. “I find 250 hard to believe. I was thinking, if we did (destroy any pots), maybe a couple dozen at most.”

Hahn refuted the idea that the McCall was trying to leave and at one point requested that the anonymous contractor be asked, if you were leaving, why did it take 90 minutes to haul their gear after they were told, and why didn’t they go east, which would have indicated they were trying to leave?

In the aftermath, there was also confusion as to whether the McCall had permission to be where Hahn encountered it. US Wind External Affairs Director Nancy Sopko said the McCall did have full approval from the federal government to conduct survey operations in and around US Wind’s lease, including that area.

 “As we explained previously, we have regularly coordinated our survey activities with local fishermen to try to avoid areas where they are fishing,” Sopko said in an email. “That coordination often involves voluntarily avoiding certain areas and focusing on other areas.”

“There is no question that the Emma McCall had permission under US Wind’s lease and survey plan approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to survey where it was surveying. We are unaware of any argument to the contrary.”

Later, Sopko clarified that there was an understanding of sorts between Hahn and US Wind as to where the McCall should be.

“We have permits to allow surveying around lease area. That being said, through our coordination efforts and communications with fisherman, we voluntarily agreed to keep our vessel away from the specific area,” she said. “It doesn’t have to do with permission. We worked out with the fisherman a situation where we would keep our vessel away from a particular area. Bad weather that day caused us to end up where we didn’t intend to be.”

Hahn, responding to all of the contractor’s allegations, made no bones about how he feels.

“Well, first off, he wants to stay anonymous. OK. My response to him is that they weren’t supposed to be here and I don’t make this s—- up,” Hahn said. “How do you go through only a couple dozen pots when there are 600 in the water and you’re trolling for hours?”

“I asked them for half an hour to pull up their gear and they didn’t.”

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on Nov. 19, 2021.

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