"Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council" meets in Gulfport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

"Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council" meets in Gulfport


By Rebecca Powers – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Oil was also a topic of discussion at the "Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's" meeting in Gulfport.

The group meets five times a year in different gulf states to talk about things like catch limits and fishing permits.

On Tuesday, they went about their business as usual, but there was a white elephant in the room crushing the spirits of those who are so passionate about the Gulf and its inhabitants.

Commercial fisherman Bob Spaeth said, "There used to be a commercial with an Indian watching over by the stream with tears in his eyes, well, that's how I feel."

The Gulf is Bob Spaeth's first love. He says what the gushing oil is doing to the water he has commercially fished for 40 years is tragic. As director of the offshore fishing association, he comes to all Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management meetings.

So does Dennis O'Hern, but he represents the recreational fisherman of the Gulf. Dennis O'Hern is the Executive Director of the Fishing Rights Alliance.

O'Hern said, "We're kind of an advocate for anybody who likes to catch and keep fish. Our group is mainly concerned about fishing rules being applied fairly."

But all the rules have changed this year because of the BP spill. At this fisheries meeting in Gulfport, the talk often turns to oil.

Dr. Bob Shipp said, "Absolutely, this is the most tragic thing that has ever happened, and I think, unfortunately, we're just seeing the beginning of it."

Dr. Shipps is the Chairman of the Gulf Council. He also heads up the Marine Science Department at University of South Alabama. He is watching very carefully to see what areas stay viable for fishing this year.

"It depends on if they can stop this thing in the next week or 10 days. We'll probably lose the fishing season for most of the gulf," Shipps said. "If it continues and goes unabated till mid August, I wouldn't be surprised to see the entire gulf of Mexico fisheries shut down."

For die hard fishermen like Bob Spaeth and Dennis O'Hern, that would be worse than anything they could have ever imagined.

O'Hearn told WLOX News, "For the first time in my life I feel helpless. You know? And I've never felt that way. There's always been a way out and option an answer but this time, we're just not sure."

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