by Hunter Dawkins

Tuesday morning in the Commission of Marine Resources (CMR) monthly meeting, a few new items were discussed at the Bolton Auditorium.  After an update on the legislative agenda by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) Executive Director General Joe Spraggins, the Office of Marine Patrol Chief Keith Davis addressed the commission about a few minor citations.

Chief Davis followed this presentation with a dialogue of 29 citations from the Litter Campaign that MDMR is in the process of developing.  Once listing these, Davis displayed the tags or badge, which should be applied on all water vessels.

Commissioner Natalie Guess asked about having sanitation devices per boat where Davis responded that this arrangement would not be fair.  Later, Chief Davis expressed an interest of numerous outside organizations who want to participate in the MDMR Litter Campaign.

With Chief Financial Officer Shavay Gaines releasing the monthly fiscal year report, the agency has 73% of operating funds for the 2019 year remaining and 51.5% of the Tidelands Trust Fund in the budget.  Thirteen City projects consume $3.79 million of the Fiscal Year 2019 Tidelands Public Access while only three county projects and one miscellaneous use $550,000 of the money so far.

A little more than $1.6 million dollars have not been awarded yet in the distribution of funds, according to MDMR Tidelands Representative Sonja Slater.

General Spraggins replaced MDMR Public Affairs Director Charmaine Schmermund that was absent due to travel for the agency.  The General said that MDMR was mentioned over nineteen times in the press with with main subjects being about the effects of the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Red Snapper season.  Pass Christian Middle School was spoke of when mentioning a class related to the work of the government agency to the public.

Finally, the Office of Marine Fisheries discussed a few regulation changes and updates for the commission.  Director Joe Jewell brought up the first final adoption of Title 22 Part 20 in the Mississippi Code, which was a creation of a penalty matrix for all fishermen.  The commission unanimously approved these regulatory changes regarding the removal of the endorsement language of Section 104 and the deletion of Section 105.

After this vote, the commission unanimously adopted the notice of intent from Title 22 Part 7 of the Mississippi Code with Federal Compliance for Spanish Mackerel, Hogfish, and Swordfish.

A significant deliberation began on the Tarpon recommendations for potential changes in regulations, as it was previously asked by the commission for the March meeting.  MDMR representative Trevor Moncrief presented a few management options, such as putting the size limit to 75 inches fork length and one per vessel for the day in a bag limit regulation.  Additionally, any tarpon that was over 40 inches with no intention to be harvested must remain in the water.  The Tag requirements would be subject to any action by the Mississippi Legislature.

CMR Chair Steve Bosarge questioned the staff due to only having one presentation on the matter, where Jewell responded that there was no purpose for catching tarpon over 40 inches except for state record.  With unanimous approval, these recommendations held up.

Subsequently, the most important dialogue of the day had to hear of the staff’s recommendations for the viability of a species-specific state commercial shark fishery.  Agency Representative Matt Hill asked Clarence Seymour to step forward to discuss his ideas.  As the task force chair on this subject setup by the commission, Seymour told CMR about his history of shark fishing among the charter boat community.

Eventually, the CMR ruled of collecting data from all available sources to look at the viability of a state commercial shark fishery.