The spring boating and fishing period has arrived in South Mississippi, and the Department of Marine Resources is offering a series of free classes to ensure safety from the bay to the barrier islands.
It is Mississippi law that anyone born after June 30, 1980 pass a state certified boat and safety class before operating a vessel.
''One of the most important functions of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is to make sure those who enjoy boating in our coastal waters know how to do so safely,'' said DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller. ''We provide boating classes, free of charge, so that everyone knows what the rules are and what equipment they need to stay safe and enjoy themselves."
The 2013 boating period, on a statewide level, saw 61 accidents with 14 fatalities and 29 additional injuries. Of that number, nearly 40 percent occurred south of Interstate 10 in the coastal counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson.
''One accident is one too many,'' said Patrick Levine of the DMR. ''I would like to emphasize that boating under the influence is illegal. Alcohol has a much greater affect on the body while boating due to the environment and causes impaired vision, balance and coordination. Also, anyone 12 and younger has to wear a life jacket while boating. Remember, it has to be the right size. When boating, in order to avoid a collision, number one; you must know and follow the rules of navigation. Number two; pay attention to navigational aids. Number three; maintain a sharp lookout. Number four; maintain a safe speed, especially in concentrated boat traffic. Number five; look in all directions before making a turn, and never operate a vessel while under the influence.''
The DMR, along with The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, will offer an outdoors safety class this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event, which is free, will be held at 6005 Bayou Heron Road in Moss Point. All persons completing the class will receive a state certified certificate.
The class includes how to properly launch and trailer a boat, approach and tie off the boat at a dock and other safety techniques.
Here's a look at other upcoming Boating and Water Safety classes to be taught by the DMR. April 8 & 10: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bolton Building Biloxi.
April 22 & 24: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pass Christian Oyster Check Station.
May 13 & 15: 6p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Grand Bay NERR. Website: grandbaynerr.org.
June 7: 8:30 a.m. at the Bolton Building Biloxi.
June 21: 8:30 a.m. at the Pass Christian Oyster Check Station.
July 12: 8:30 a.m. at the Grand Bay NERR. Website: grandbaynerr.org.
July 26: 8:30 a.m. at the Bolton Building Biloxi.
August 9: 8:30 a.m. at the Bolton Building Biloxi.
For more information, call the DMR at (228) 523-4128
Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.