ROCKPORT, Texas -- Texas shrimpers, angered by a U.S. Coast Guard refusal to inspect Vietnamese fishing boats for weight limit violations, said Wednesday they are considering a protest of what they say is the federal government's support of unfair competition.
The Coast Guard's refusal came Tuesday in the latest meeting aimed at ending a dispute between the Texans and Vietnamese immigrant fishermen over how many boats are used in Gulf Coast bays and how extensively the bays are fished.
An unnamed Ku Klux Klan leader, meanwhile, told a Houston-area newspaper the conflict involves communists and proposed a 'Viet Cong watch.'
'Some of the blacks have set up a Klan watch,' he said in an interview with the Clear Lake Daily Citizen. 'I think we should set up something called the 'Viet Cong watch.' The problem isn't just the Vietnamese. It's the communists.'
The Klansman said a mock Vietnamese fishing vessel named 'the Miss USS Viet Cong' and flying a 'communist' flag will be burned in effigy at a KKK rally Feb. 14 in Galveston County.
The rally will be open to the public, but 'no blacks or Mexican-Americans or Vietnamese will be allowed,' said the Klansman, who holds the rank of Titan.
He said the KKK will not intervene in the conflict between the American and Vietnamese fishermen unless 'the Klan is asked by a white American when his constitutional rights are violated.'
'I'm not totally against immigrants, but the United States is full,' the Klansman said.
At the Coast Guard meeting Tuesday, a spokesman told fishermen on both sides there is not enough manpower to examine all boats to see if they adhere to the 5-ton limit above which a craft must be federally licensed as a commercial fishing vessel.
Driven back to the planning stage, the Texas fishermen Wednesday discussed the possiblity of dumping papers documenting their own boats on the desk of a Coast Guard official to protest the refusal.
'A lot of the boys here are talking about just all getting together and taking our documentation papers over and giving them back to the Coast Gaurd and telling them: 'Here, we don't need them,'' said Raymond James, a spokesman for the Rockport shrimpers.
James said the fishermen must get the attention of officials in Washington and make the point that enforcement of commercial vessel licensing should extend to everybody's fishing boat.
'Something needs to come from the top of the hill to take the protective shield from these Vietnamese so they will be treated just like the rest of us,' he said.
After the Tuesday meeting, Vietnamese fishermen invited Coast Guard officials to inspect the 11 boats they are building in Rockport to see if the finished vessels will come within the 5-ton limit.
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Victor of Corpus Christi said Wednesday some of those boats would be measured, but he indicated the immigrants' 29 boats already in the water would not be examined unless they were stopped for some infraction.
The Vietnamese have contended they were never informed of the state and federal laws governing fishing and were not familiar with local shrimping customs when they were resettled along the coast.
A meeting has been scheduled next week to explain the laws to them.