BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources on Tuesday voted down a request from Jackson County supervisors to restrict menhaden, or pogy fishing, to one mile offshore. It's an issue that involved both science and politics.
Omega Protein is the Moss Point company that fishes for menhaden, and has for decades. Its annual economic impact is more than $50 million, including a $12 million payroll. Moss Point's mayor says the supervisors' request for more fishing restrictions was unwarranted.
"Although the law gives them that authority to make that request to you, I think it should be made based on data. Based on something that somebody has decided, through study, that that's a legitimate request," Mayor Broomfield told the CMR.
F.J. Eicke represents the Coastal Conservation Association, which lobbied for the one mile fishing limit.
"Even though the company self imposes a half mile, and as I said, self imposed is not a regulation. It's self imposed. It could be broken at any time," he said.
"We don't have a terribly healthy gulf right now. And one thing we could do is fish a little less for menhaden, a little farther from shore," Ocean Springs resident Julia O'Neal told the CMR.
Rick Schillaci represents Omega Protein. He told the CMR there's no evidence that the one mile ban would benefit conservation.
"Because we understand the importance of healthy, sustainable fisheries and eco system. But there is no scientific rationale for this proposed regulation," he said.
After hearing from several speakers on both sides of the issue, the commission was simply not convinced there was any great need to add more restrictions to the menhaden fishing.
"The last thing I want to see is another industry, especially another industry in Jackson County, leave Jackson County," said CMR Commissioner Steve Bosarge.
The three members present then voted unanimously against the requested fishing restriction.
Before the vote, DMR Marine Fisheries Director Joe Jewell told the commission, from a scientific perspective, the menhaden stock is not being overfished.