(June 20) Acceptance of a freakish gift of nature shouldn’t be grounds for a civil penalty, much less a jail stint. Yet that’s what happened June 12 in Point Clear, Alabama, when over-officious game wardens began ticketing people for scooping up seafood from a “jubilee.”

The eastern shore of Mobile Bay is the only place in the Western Hemisphere blessed with the jubilee, which, as defined by Mobile’s Lagniappe weekly, “is a rare, spontaneous natural phenomenon enjoyed on Alabama’s Gulf Coast where droves of fish, crabs, eels and shrimp converge to the shoreline as water oxygen levels plummet.” Caused by a combination of certain tidal conditions and light breezes from the East, full jubilees are rare, sometimes a year or two apart. For centuries, area residents up and down a small stretch of shoreline have alerted each other by ringing bells or serial phone calls when jubilees occur.

Children especially love being able to walk right up to the water and scoop up flounders, shrimp, and crabs by the bucketful, often in the dark wee hours of the morning, while parents keep watch and wonder if there’s freezer space for whatever can’t be cooked fresh. These customs are well understood locally and are culturally sacred.

For some reason, the June 12 jubilee made the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division decide to be spoilsports. Against tradition, common sense, and reasonable discretionary leniency, its officers began enforcing fishing regulations against jubilee celebrants. They handed out at least five citations for fishing without a license and even pepper-sprayed, roughed up, and jailed 66-year-old Vincent Wasp, a lifelong resident, when he allegedly mouthed off to them for demanding that he not participate in a tradition he has spent his life enjoying…. [To read the full piece on this exasperating, inexcusable situation, follow this link.]

 

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