by Hunter Dawkins

In a bit of an unorthodox special meeting by the Mississippi Commission of Marine Resources (CMR) Tuesday morning in a video setup due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, a brief session with several lengthy discussions were presented online.  Following the agenda and previous minutes being approved, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) Executive Director General Joe Spraggins announced that the governmental agency began instituting an oyster plant in three Gulf Coast areas (Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, and the Back Bay of Biloxi).

$1 million was spent on this from the GOMESA projects for the agency.  MDMR will put over 60 million oysters on shell or crushed concrete into the Mississippi Sound to provide stock and future increased spat. These oysters will be placed across the Mississippi Sound to enhance future growth of oysters in different areas.

Unfortunately after the meeting recessed, several official suggested the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway again.  The Spillway was opened twice in 2019 to control flooding along the Mississippi River. As a result, freshwater has been pouring into the Mississippi Sound, altering marine ecosystems along the Gulf Coast and destroying the seafood industry.

The final deliberation came about the commission adopting language from the Gear Task Force Committee, which was formed to define haul seines and limit the areas of exposure.  The resolution was presented by the Chairman of the Committee; Frank Parker, to oppose two legislative bills.  Due to the absence of two members of the commission (Richard Gollott and Ronnie Daniels), CMR adopted a change of language for this resolution 2-1 to oppose the legislative bills at the next called meeting.

“This was a one-sided presentation, where CMR is supposed to promulgate what the legislature decides,” said Mississippi State Senator Mike Thompson of District 48, who authored the Senate Bill 2720 that the commission opposed.  “I have had numerous constituents come up to me and address this unique situation on Cat Island.”

The commission was presented with a Charter-For-Hire Program by the staff of MDMR, but chose to continue with the ongoing program and make no regulatory changes at this moment in time.

In order to comply with Governor Reeve’s Executive Order 1463 dated March 24, the MDMR will not be issuing commercial licenses to in-person applicants until April 17.   In the event, the Governor issues a subsequent Order extending the emergency provisions beyond April 17, the public will be advised accordingly.  Applicants may continue to obtain commercial licenses by mailing a copy of both the boat registration and the boat owner’s driver’s license to the MDMR at 1141 Bayview Avenue, Biloxi, MS 39530.

Finishing out the special session webinar yesterday, the state Commission on Marine Resources certified a state fishing record to Harley J. Havard, of Lucedale set the record for Red Hind with a fish weighing 4 pounds, 7.36 ounces using a spear.