Angry fishermen speak out at DMR meeting - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Angry fishermen speak out at DMR meeting

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The anger of some commercial fishermen boiled over at Tuesday morning's Commission on Marine Resources meeting. Several longtime fishermen raised their voices, claiming a lack of representation for their industry. Many of their current frustrations involve the impact of the oil spill.

Comments from the fishermen were both pointed and personal. One commercial fisherman said they're ready to call for the resignation of DMR director, Dr. Bill Walker.

They claim DMR is ignoring their reports of oil in the Mississippi Sound.

The fishermen are also upset at what they feel was the premature re-opening of shrimp season, with the threat of oil still a concern.

"We're tired of this. We want some representation," fisherman Mark Stewart told the board, "Besides the bad representation we've been getting from some of you all."

Comments from frustrated fishermen dominated the public comment portion of the CMR meeting.

Seafood factory owner Richard Gollott was criticized after saying he looks out for the interests of his fishing fleet, who happen to be Vietnamese.

"You don't represent American fishermen, let's be honest about it," Stewart said.

"You're right," replied Gollott.

"I know I'm right. Everybody else needs to know that too, that you do not represent American fishermen. Do you think that's okay? Is it okay nobody represents us?" said Stewart.

"The fishermen have been well represented. All of 'em. We don't say we're representing the Vietnamese or Americans. You have representation," Gollott assured the group.

Delores Suarez questioned the re-opening of shrimp season.

"These fishermen don't want to ruin the seafood industry. If we put something out there while there's still gunk in the waters, people don't want it. That ruins our seafood industry," she told commissioners.

Richard Gollott suggested they're hurting themselves by ignoring the testing which says Gulf seafood is safe.

"The Food and Drug Administration said there's nothing wrong with the seafood out of the Gulf of Mexico. What is wrong with you people is you don't want to get off the BP payroll and go to work," said Gollott.

That comment sparked an angry cry from several fishermen in the meeting room.

"Sir, I've never been on the BP payroll," said Suarez.

"I can't believe you said that," another fisherman was heard to say.

"All we need is a good southeast wind. And we're going to have the stuff in here again. It didn't go anywhere. It went to the bottom and that's where it's at. I don't care what any of you all say, I'm telling you it's there," said commercial fisherman Jeffrey Powell.

The DMR's director said claims about oil must be tested.

"You can't look at a brown spot on a tissue and say, ‘Wow, that's oil.' You have to analyze it chemically to determine what exactly it is. And we will do that," said Dr. Bill Walker. "And if we find that these materials out there are not oil, then we need to quit talking about it. We need to quit saying it's oil. Because continuing to do that simply keeps the signs up in the Chicago fish houses that say, 'Our Seafood is NOT from the Gulf of Mexico.' That, we need to stop."

"If there is a danger out there, we want to know about it and we'll deal with it. If there's not a danger out there, we need to say that too. And then support what all our analytical tests are telling us so far to date. And that is that our waters are safe to recreate and play in and our seafood is safe to eat," Dr. Walker added.

A report from the marine fisheries division of DMR offered further assurances that gulf seafood is safe to eat.

Joe Jewell told commissioners and the crowd that all the data from "extensive testing" continues to show no presence of oil in fish and shrimp.

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