Mississippi awarded millions to help commercial fisheries - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi awarded millions to help commercial fisheries

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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

Nearly $11 million in federal money will help restore oyster and blue crab fisheries in Mississippi. Both were declared disasters following a 2011 season ruined by freshwater from the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway.

It was quiet on the docks Thursday morning: the latest interruption in this limited oyster season.

"Last three weeks have been real bad, but hopefully we'll get open in another week or two," said longtime seafood dealer, Jerry Forte, who knows well the unpredictable nature of commercial fishing.

He also has some thoughts about that relief money.

"Rebuild the reefs, and let the fishermen help rebuild the reefs. If they do that, it would help all fishermen because they've been out of work anyway. So, that would probably help pretty good."

"What we do is, we work with NOAA to come up with a recovery plan," said Dr. Kelly Lucas, the Chief Scientific Officer with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

She says the primary purpose of that federal money is to help restore the resource.

"Some things for oysters we might consider is reef cultivation, planting some material for more oysters to grow on. Water quality improvement, especially in areas where water quality has degraded over the years, where we do have oysters," said Lucas.

Some people WLOX News talked with would like to see more of that money go directly to help the struggling fishermen. Not just restoring the resource, but helping out those who make a living from that resource.

Jimmy Rowell has been fishing for nearly half a century.

"I think they ought to let the fishermen go and do a relay like they did before," said Rowell.

He says paying the oystermen to transport new oysters to the reef would benefit the fishermen and their future.

"They'd be able to help the fishermen a little bit there. They got all that money in the past and it was supposed to go, some of it, to the fishermen. We ain't seen none of it."

Rowell and his fellow fishermen will be closely watching where this round of relief money will go.

Lucas says the $10.5 million is a significant amount that could make a real difference in helping restore the fisheries.

NOAA will oversee the spending, which will likely be spread over several years.

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