By Hunter Dawkins

The Mississippi Commission for Marine Resources (CMR) held their monthly meeting at the Bolton Building at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) on Tuesday morning.

Two key topics were the use of haul seines (a method of fishing that employs a fishing net) and the banning of oyster basket dredging.

When referring to the use of haul seines, CMR Vice Chairman Steve Bosarge expressed that the rules and regulations are applicable to both commercial and recreation and that “the resources  are available for everyone.”

Mississippi Sierra Club President Steve Sheppard who was attending the meeting, stated the use of haul seines caused entanglement and should not be allowed.

It was noted that the commercial sector is harvesting less than 2% of many species compared to recreational fishermen with haul seines.

After a brief recess, discussion of the oyster season and the future occurred, as the CMR set the opening dates for the 2017-18 oyster harvesting period.

  • The season will open for tonging with a 15-sack limit on October 2 at legal sunrise in Biloxi Bay with an overall sack quota at nearly 500 sacks.
  • The season will open for dredging in the western sound with a 20 sack limit on November 13 at legal sunrise with an overall sack quota at nearly 10,000 sacks.
  • CMR set the allowable oyster harvest at 31% of the estimated overall oyster resource availability. DMR staff presentations indicated that this year was the lowest number of oysters observed in their annual stock assessment in the past 10 years. The 10,000 sack overall dredging limit equates to only about 10-14 days’ worth of work for oyster fishermen.

Finally, the ruling on the oyster basket dredging closed the meeting. After going into executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss potential litigation, the commission conclusively ruled to deny a petition to reconsider the oyster basket dredge ban.

The prohibition of the basket dredge will go in to effect on October 2, 2017 as planned unless legal action is taken.

The next Commission on Marine Resources October meeting will be October 17 at the Hancock County Board of Supervisors Board Room in Bay St. Louis, MS and will begin at 10:00 am.