by Hunter Dawkins

The Commission on Marine Resources issued administrative penalties for seven commercial fishermen who were accused of late reporting or under reporting spotted sea trout on Mississippi’s Trip Ticket Reporting System during the spring of 2018.

Fines assessed by the CMR ranged from $354 to $10,000 with $10,000 being the maximum penalty allowed under the CMR’s administrative penalties guidelines. These penalties were recommended by DMR Executive Director General Joe Spraggins. A six-month payment plan was accepted into the recommendations.
Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United statement:

“We encourage all commercial fishermen to take note of the severity of these fines and be reminded how important it is to timely and accurately report all seafood sales for any and all seafood landed in Mississippi. Accurate commercial landings data is the foundation for sustainable fisheries management.”

Under state regulsation, commercial fishermen and/ or seafood dealers are required to submit trip tickets detailing every seafood transaction. When fishermen sell their catch to in-state seafood dealers the dealers are responsible for submitting the trip ticket with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR).

When fishermen sell their catch to an out-of-state seafood dealer or to any one who is not a licensed Mississippi seafood dealer then the fisherman is responsible for submitting the trip tickets with (MDMR).

A recent regulatory change is 2017 modified Mississippi’s Trip Ticket Reporting System to require fishermen selling their catch to out-of-state dealers to be responsible for reporting catch. Previous to this regulatory change it was the out-of-state dealers responsibility but MDMR soon realized that they could not force out-of-state seafood dealers to comply with Mississippi law.

“It easy to point the finger at commercial fishermen and hit them with hefty fines in this instance but it is unfair to cast such blame when their is no reporting mechanism in the recreational spotted sea trout fishery,” said MSFCUnited executive director Ryan Bradley. For comparison, MS commercial fishermen are limited to a 50,000 pound annual quota while recreational harvest have no annual quota and landings are estimated to be over 1-2 million pounds annually.

Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United has also been in talks with the MDMR and private companies to help improve Mississippi’s Trip Ticket Reporting System. Currently, individual fisherman have to submit paper copies by mail or in a DMR approved drop box. Electronic reporting methods such as smart phone apps and web based solutions are currently being explored to allow individual fisherman to comply with the seafood reporting laws in a more timely and paperless fashion.

Additional CMR actions:  Revocation of Endorsements under Certain Penalties, Spotted Seatrout Endorsement, Mississippi Oyster Task Force to accept staff recommendation of members of the task force, and Cat Island Sea Grass was brought on a motion by new appointed Commissioner Natalie Guess to have staff conduct a study on the feasibility of creating a no motor zone around Cat Island seagrass.

Guess was appointed during recess last week, as her seat will need to be ratified during the legislative session next year. She fills to vacant seat left by fellow Hancock County resident Jolyene Trapani.