by Hunter Dawkins

Following the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) executive director General Joe Spraggins report at Tuesday’s virtual Commission of Marine Resources (CMR) meeting, Commissioner Steve Bosarge asked the “elephant-in-the-room” question about their current regulatory power.  “The Legislature has put us without rules,” said Bosarge, a member who’s expertise is in the commercial fishing industry.

During the Mississippi legislative session on June 17; both chambers passed House Bill 827, taking away the regulatory powers of CMR on all marine matters and giving these to the legislature and DMR executive director.  This bill was signed by Governor Reeves on June 30, but ironically he authored an executive order the next week suspending any actions on the commission.

When Bosarge asked Spraggins what he knew or heard about this legislation before it passed, the general said he was told by the Mississippi House of Representatives Marine Resources Committee Chairman Timmy Ladner (Kiln, Poplarville) that there had been build up after the CMR letter in early March was sent to the legislature opposing their proposed bills.  “I would like things to remain the same,” expressed Spraggins, when referring to the potential turnover.

Finally, Bosarge asked DMR Counsel Sandy Shellnut if there was an Attorney General opinion on this matter where she followed with stating Governor Reeves executive order supersedes any regulatory action by House Bill 827.

In General Spraggins’ report, the agency received $1.5 million in funds from the CARES Act primarily for commercial fisherman and processors.  According to Spraggins, retail cannot be a part of these appropriations.  Additionally, there was no budget for the agency due to the legislature going into recess before any proposal.  The agency went on furlough from July 1 to the 8th, but returned on help from special funds that were reserved.

These special funds; according to Spraggins, mostly consisted of GOMesa funds, the Tidelands Trust Fund, and additional federal dollars.  The special funds will last until the end of August.

While reviewing the monthly report, DMR’s state revenue was $5.3 million, the agency revenue was $108 million, the state net income was $1.4 million, and the agency net income was at $33.6 million.  After twelve months of Fiscal Year 2020, there was 58.6% of the operating funds of the budget remaining and 30.9% of the Tidelands Trust Fund account in tact.

In other actions, there were two youth division state saltwater finfish records set by Samuel Grayson catching a spotted seatrout of 5 pounds and 11 ounces along with Rodie Armes snabbing a spot with just over four ounces.  Four additional finfish records were set by Sean Cook for a Permit of eleven ounces and a Spanish Hogfish of 2 pounds and ten ounces.  Tim Shivers caught a record-setting Red Grouper at 22.205 pounds and Donnie Armes pulled in a spot of 4.42 ounces to earn the top placement in the state.