NEW BEDFORD — The thrum of the boat’s engine was audible last fall as local scalloper Rick Lynch, 44, talked frankly about his personal experiences and observations of drug use on New Bedford's waterfront, now and nearly 30 years ago.

A New Bedford native who lives in Dartmouth, Lynch has been around long enough to fall into a few bottles, or needles, and climb back out again. He said he's been sober for about 15 years, and a captain of scallop boats for about 14. Lynch supports mandatory drug testing in the fishing industry, but the idea might gain little traction on the regulation-wary waterfront — even after drug arrests on outbound fishing boats last month.

Understanding Lynch's views about the present, though, means hearing about his past. He said he was 16 when he started working on local fishing boats, in the late ‘80s.

“Back then, Union Street was crazy,” Lynch said. “There was cocaine running around, there was heroin everywhere. There used to be bags of cocaine on the galley table on the boat, because we were working crazy hours back then, you know. Everything was illegal, in what we did fishin’. I mean, we brought in illegal small scallops because there was a scallop count back then. We were jumping over the Canadian line and staying up for days because we’d loaded the boat so much. Guys were eating No-Doz like they were going crazy — or eating Dexedrine, diet pills.

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