by Hunter Dawkins

Despite a lengthy meeting at the Bolton Building in Biloxi Tuesday morning, the Mississippi Commission of Marine Resources (CMR) accomplished a few changes.

After an hour of discussion and review of a video presented by Commissioner Ronnie Daniels, the commission voted to setup a task force to define a haul seine, for commercial haul seine placards and tags to become invalid effective that day, and to authorize the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) executive director General Joe Spraggins control over the oyster season.

According to a statement released by DMR, commercial fishermen can continue fishing with legal haul seine nets; however, the placards and tags issued by MDMR on the nets are be returned. The placards and tags must be returned to the MDMR at 1141 Bayview Avenue in Biloxi.

Before these ruling, Commissioner Daniels of Pass Christian who represents charter boats displayed a Facebook video of alleged Mississippi commercial fisherman with the haul seine DMR tags.  These nets were straight line gill nets that entrapped fish from the Gulf of Mexico, which is illegal under the state law Daniels mentioned.

Chairman of the Commission, Steve Bosarge who represents the commercial fisherman said “Gill nets should not be allowed”, but stated the commission “will never get anywhere if we don’t converse.”

Examining the potential problem with gear or resources; DMR’s Office of Marine Fisheries, Joe Jewell expressed the potential problem was with equipment.  Daniels countered the discussion with a motion to reclassify the haul seine as a “like contrivance” under the Mississippi Code.  Offering the definition of a like contrivance, as a clever device that has been invented for a particular purpose.

Following the motion, several commercial fisherman were allowed to comment on the potential action with Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United President Frank Parker speaking of “propaganda” that is being spread.

Daniels’ motion failed on a roll call vote 3-2, but a task force vote to set the definition of a haul seine, passed unanimously.

The oyster season, which has been stagnant due to delays from the harvest numbers in the western portion of the Mississippi Sound began Thursday, Nov. 29, at legal sunrise, officials with the state Department of Marine Resources announced Wednesday.

The conditionally approved areas are:
Area II “A” – This area includes Pass Christian Tonging Reef.
Area II “B” – This area includes St. Stanislaus and Waveland reefs.
Area II “E” – This area includes Henderson Point Reef.
Area II “F” – This area includes Pass Christian Reef.
Area II “G” – This area includes Pass Marianne Reef.

These reefs will open for a maximum of seven days harvest with a 30% quota by area. The initial commercial oyster tonging vessel daily limit is 15 sacks and the commercial oyster dredging vessel daily limit is 20 sacks.

In other actions, Chief of the Office of Marine Patrol awarded officer Jada Whittington for saving a child’s life on duty, reported a citation for illegal oysters in the back of a truck off the interstate, and a failure to register tales & scales without a fishing license.  Additionally, there was report from the Pass Christian Harbor for a citation from being to close to the shore while shrimping.

CMR unanimously approved the application from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) permitting to construct a breakwater/living shoreline and subtidal reef near the mouth of the Wolf River, as Phase 4 from the BP Funds.  Currently, there are 5 projects with a budget of $30 million overall based on the displays of DMR’s Office of Coastal Resources Management.

Finally, Dr. Paul Mickle gave a presentation to the commission about creating a seagrass monitoring program for the barrier islands, but specifically focusing on Cat Island first.  Once the review of the benefits for establishing this, the commission unanimously approved a monitoring program budget for seagrasses around Cat Island and expanding from there.

The revenue of the DMR, as reported was $3.9 million and there was still $4.7 million remaining with $1.7 million from Tidelands funds left.