HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - One commissioner calls it a "no win" situation. He was talking about the Commission on Marine Resources making decisions about oyster season.
The commission did that Tuesday before a large audience in Hancock County. A divided CMR voted 3 to 1 to open oyster season on November 10th this year, with a 10 sack limit for dredging and 7 sacks for tongers. In doing so, the commission went against the recommendations from its own staff of scientists.
Because of the poor condition of oyster reefs, the DMR's chief scientific officer said the staff had given some consideration to recommending no oyster season at all.
"But we looked at the numbers. And we said what can we do? What can we get? What is sustainable? What can these fishermen go harvest and make this a sustainable reef?" said Dr. Kelly Lucas.
The final recommendation was to closely monitor the harvest, allowing just 10 percent of the existing market size oysters be taken from each reef before shutting down that reef to harvest. But Chairman Richard Gollott preferred opening the season with no such quotas. He says the problem has not been overfishing.
"Our problem has been saltwater intrusion, drills, diseases and such as that. And the Bonne Carre spillway. That's our problem. It hasn't been that we're not producing oysters. Our problem is getting them to three inches," said Chairman Gollott.
Commissioner Steve Bosarge was the lone no vote.
"I have to lean towards the science. And the science says that we've got to reduce the harvest to a sustainable level. Right now we've got to reduce it to a level where the actual reef can actually grow," said Bosarge.
Commissioner Bosarge said no matter what decision not all fishermen would be pleased. He was right.
"I'm mad today, listening to your decision making without asking us our opinion. We're the public. We want to put our comments on what y'all are doing too. It's like we're dealing with the mafia up here. You got your own agenda," oyster fisherman James Miller told the CMR.
The commission also voted 3-to-1 to allow a one week special season beginning November 3rd. That season would involve Mississippi dredgers only, harvesting oysters on the Pass Marianne reef and relaying young oysters and oyster shells to other, more productive reef areas.