A long-simmering dispute over bay scallop fishing in Oak Bluffs has erupted in a physical confrontation, theft, and vandalism over the past month. Police are investigating all three incidents, and say they may question some commercial fishermen who may have had a motive for the crimes. So far, however, there have been no arrests or citations issued.

The acrimony comes during a poor scalloping season. According to shellfish constable David Grunden, there is an abundance of seed, or juvenile bay scallops in the water. It is illegal to take seed scallops, which are differentiated by the lack of a growth ring, even though many are almost as large as adult scallops. Mr. Grunden invoked his authority under state law to close Sengekontacket Pond to scalloping before the season officially opened. His decision was supported unanimously by members of the town shellfish committee. Yields in other Oak Bluffs waters have been marginal, and town officials are considering the closure of other usually abundant waters.

The most serious of the incidents happened on Nov. 3, just a few days into the season. Stephen Amaral and assistant shellfish warden Jason Mallory were involved in a physical confrontation on the Oak Bluffs side of Lagoon Pond, as Mr. Amaral brought his daily catch ashore. Both men traveled to the Oak Bluffs police station, and told police differing accounts of the dispute.

According to a police report, Mr. Amaral said he was the victim of the assault.

“Mallory approached him and began aggressively pawing through his catch,” according Mr. Amaral’s version of the confrontation in the police report. “Amaral acknowledged that there might have been a few seed scallops in his load but dismissed that as being a normal byproduct when taking scallops. The two men exchanged words and at some point, Mallory grabbed Amaral and threw him to the ground at the water’s edge, causing Amaral’s arm to get wet.”

Mr. Mallory told police a different version of the events.

“Mallory approached Amaral and could immediately see seed on the top of his catch,” according to the police report. “Based on the lack of cooperation Mallory told Amaral that he would now be going through the entire catch for seed.”

The report said Mr. Amaral began loading his catch into his truck, and Mr. Mallory told him he could not do that.

“Amaral then grabbed Mallory’s jacket and tried to throw him to the ground,” Mr. Mallory told police, according to the report. “Mallory countered by shifting his weight and threw Amaral to the ground. Amaral came at Mallory again, and Mallory again threw him to the ground.”

As they do in most similar cases with no independent corroboration, police made no arrests, but informed both men they could file civil charges in Edgartown district court, if they wished.

In another incident on Nov. 10, police were called to the shore of Lagoon Pond where Mr. Grunden and Mr. Mallory reported a theft.

“They stated that at some point last night, two shellfish draggers and a Dewalt work radio [were] stolen from the town owned shellfish boat,” according to a police report. “The boat was moored in the mooring field,” the report continued, “with all the equipment locked up on board.”

Mr. Grunden and Mr. Mallory told police the draggers were worth $400 to $500 each, and the radio was valued at $150. There are no known suspects, according to the report.

According to police, Mr. Grunden also reported someone put water in the gas tank of his town owned truck, causing substantial damage to the engine. That incident came shortly after the Nov. 10 meeting of the board of selectmen. At the meeting, commercial scallopers Kyle Peters and Melissa Carr asked permission to net scallops in Sengekontacket Pond, and disputed Mr. Grunden’s judgment that there were very few adult scallops in the water. The bad feelings descended briefly into a shouting match between Mr. Grunden and Mr. Peters.

The following day (Nov. 11), Mr. Peters and Ms. Carr went to the Oak Bluffs police station to complain that Mr. Mallory was harassing them, and described a dispute over catch limits. The couple said they made an audio recording of the incident.

Police determined there was no criminal harassment, and informed Mr. Peters and Ms. Carr that under state law it is illegal to make an audio recording without permission from the person being recorded.