by Hunter Dawkins

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) Office of Marine Patrol Chief Keith Davis officially resigned Tuesday at the monthly Commission of Marine Resources (CMR) meeting to accept a new position as the Chief of Staff for recently elected Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson.

Following the MDMR Executive Director Joe Spraggins monthly report, a resolution by Governor Phil Bryant was presented to Davis for his 25 years of law enforcement service in the state of Mississippi.  After, the Deputy Chief for the office of Marine Patrol; Kyle Wilkinson, gave Davis a paddle gift symbolizing the watch over the Mississippi waters.

Two items were tabled by the commission for an agency review of each.  The first was for a permit application where a proposal to construct breakwaters along the shoreline of Big Island in Biloxi was met with a few discrepancies.

Commissioner Richard Gollott expressed that “a decision has already been made” and alternatives were not examined.   DMR’s Office of Coastal Resources Management stated that this was grant money provided to the MS Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and this permit would be under a deadline.  Public comments were delivered about a structural change along with destruction of true living shorelines on the Coast.

After deliberation on the issue and an MDEQ Representative stated that the deadline could be moved, the CMR voted unanimously to table the item.

The other concern was reporting requirements for the Charter for Hire program (CHP) among regulation laws.  Commissioner and Charter Fisherman Ronnie Daniels of Pass Christian asked about when these original regulations were put into place with a response by the MDMR Office of Marine Fisheries saying more than 20 years ago.  Even though only one CHP was against the regulation change, several commissioners felt the information provided did not help, so a unanimous vote to table this until the January meeting.

In other actions, the CMR approved the long-awaited administrative penalty matrix on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Steve Bosarge dissenting and unanimously approving the commercial tarpon regulations.  Additionally, the commission elected to leave the industrial harvest of menhaden essentially unregulated in state waters. A proposal to limit the commercial take of menhaden, an essential forage fish, to 63 million pounds per year was rejected by Commissioners.

“We are disappointed. A cap on harvest of a vital forage fish seems like an essential element of proper marine resources management,” said F. J. Eicke, Co-Chairman of the Government Relations Committee.  “Sixty-three million pounds is the average the industry harvested from 2000-2012 from what we can gather from the information that the public is allowed to see, so this did not represent a cutback or any hardship on the industry. It can only be interpreted that the industry simply refuses to accept any limits on what it can take from Mississippi waters.”

The next CMR meeting is scheduled for January 21 at 9am.