There was a public hearing on the much promoted DMR Oyster Aquaculture Program in Pass Christian last night and although I did not attend Slabbed had someone in the audience taking notes that estimated attendance at around 100 people with 25 people addressing the assemblage of Commissioners and DMR employees. Not a single person spoke out in favor of the plan to allow an oyster farm in the Bay of St Louis between the CSX and US 90 bridges. Terese Collins and Chris Lagarde get singled out for the overall quality of their comments in opposition to the plan, which is the product of the DMR Oyster Council’s work.
But before I go any further we need to stop and point something out that was missing from the DMR public relations rollout of the plan that we saw in the local media a month or so ago and that would be section 49-15-315 of the Mississippi Code:
(1) It is unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to engage in commercial harvesting of crabs, oysters, shrimp, bait shrimp or saltwater fish in the marine waters north of the CSX bridge in the three (3) coastal counties, except for the following:
(a) A person may take any euryhaline species of minnow; and
(b) A licensed commercial oyster fisherman may harvest oysters from reefs approved by the commission.
(2) The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory shall study all estuaries and bays deemed to be nurseries. The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory may recommend the establishment of nursery grounds in the estuaries and bays if necessary to protect the state’s fishing resources.
(3) The department shall set the limits on all catches for noncommercial use.
It appears the DMR Oyster Aquaculture plan was conceived and sites were chosen without first checking the laws already on the books.