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September 2000 Vol. 26, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Stewing Over Lobsters

from the September, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The rush in California to get a head start on lobster season — and the effort to which officials go to enforce the starting time — can get pretty ridiculous. The latest dispute took two years to settle.

It all began in Redondo Beach on October 1998, when two divers got a five-minute head start on the midnight starting time. Five minutes can be critical. Divers can easily grab the lobsters while they’re napping at midnight. But the action alarms other lobsters — after all, we all know they scream when they’re dropped into boiling water — and they flee.

A harbor patrol officer/diver was in the water waiting for lobster claim jumpers. After spotting diver Mike Curtis jump the gun and snatch several lobsters before other divers hit the water, the cop signaled Curtis to surface, while Curtis kept right on grabbing bugs. So, scuba cop tried physically to apprehend Curtis, they scuffled, and Curtis’ mask was ripped off. Somehow, both survived.

Curtis said later that he thought the harbor officer was another lobster diver. He wore no insignia to identify himself as a scuba cop, said Curtis, so after he received a citation, Curtis sued the city of Redondo Beach.

In July, Curtis dropped his suit. In return, the city voided the citation, saving Curtis thousands of dollars for poaching lobsters. As part of the settlement, Redondo Beach harbor patrol divers agreed to get “big, bright badges.”

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