by Hunter Dawkins

Deliberation about two state legislative bills (SB. 2720 & HB. 561) attempting to prohibit the use of haul seines to catch fish within a one mile radius of Cat Island began the Mississippi Commission of Marine Resources (CMR) special called virtual meeting on Tuesday morning.  The CMR voted 3-2 to adopt a resolution to publicly oppose both bills, even though both have passed through the legislative chamber they started from.

“Today’s Commission decision is a reflection of ever changing fisheries management needs and reminds Coast legislators that commercial fishing is considered an essential infrastructure,” expressed Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United Executive Director Ryan Bradley. “It is critical to our nation’s ability to produce our food supply domestically.”

Both legislative bills were written by South Mississippi legislators; Senate Bill 2720 from District 48 State Senator Mike Thompson (Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport) and House Bill 561 from District 93 Representative Timmy Ladner (Pearl River, Hancock, Stone counties).  Each piece of legislation stated to prohibit use of for taking of certain fish within one-half mile of the shoreline of Cat Island.

The House Bill passed 118-3 on March 11 and the Senate version 50-2 on March 10 as both were transferred to the other chamber before closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the previous ruling of CMR in September 2018 where a Gear Task Force was setup, Commissioners Mark Havard of Jackson County and Ronnie Daniels of Pass Christian opposed the resolution.  “The Gear Task Force is doing something they were not asked to do,” said Havard.

Following this measure, the CMR accepted unanimously an Individual Based Payout on Bonnet Carre Disaster Grant Appropriation where each individual is reimbursed based on their proportion of landings.  The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) Office of Marine Fisheries determined that an individual license harvest would be divided by a total of proportional allocation with at least a minimum sack of 1.

Finally, CMR denied the Mississippi State For-Hire allocation increase in the Red Snapper quota on a 2-2 vote with Commissioner Natalie Guess of Hancock County being absent on the call.

In the March 31 meeting, CMR passed the motion to increase 100% State For-Hire Red Snapper program quota to 6600 pounds for the upcoming year and reassessing in January of 2021.  However, these numbers were not accurate, thus needing a clarification to this motion.

“Not that simple becoming a charter boat,” said Commissioner Daniels, who represents that charter boat community.  “Bottom line is only 4% because these guys are undervalued.”

After the public comments and correction of numbers to a 4.06% allocation and 6154 pounds, the CMR vote denied the motion.

MDMR Executive Director General Joe Spraggins announced the next meeting for the CMR will be on April 21st.