Tense words at the CMR over proposed oyster dredge ban - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Tense words at the CMR over proposed oyster dredge ban

The Commission on Marine Resources tabled a controversial proposal to ban the use of oyster basket dredges. (Photo source: WLOX) The Commission on Marine Resources tabled a controversial proposal to ban the use of oyster basket dredges. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

There were some tense words at Tuesday’s Commission on Marine Resources meeting. It happened as the CMR was considering a proposal to ban the use of basket dredges, which some say are too damaging to the oyster reefs.

"Every area that fishes with a basket dredge has severely damaged reefs. All of Alabama's dredging grounds are damaged because they use basket dredges," fisherman Andrew Livings told the CMR, which heard comments on the proposal to ban the basket dredge.

Most of the fishermen who spoke to the CMR support the ban on basket dredges.

"Those basket dredges damage the reefs. Especially our reefs that we're building. Because they're on a softer bottom," said fisherman Harold Strong.

"I'm definitely against them. One hundred percent against them,” added fisherman John Livings, “And I think if we don't do something about it, we're not going to have too many oyster meetings to worry about because we're not going to have nothing to work.”

Among those who oppose the ban are many of the Vietnamese fishermen.

"The agency has yet to show us robust, scientific evidence or research that the use of this basket dredge is damaging the reefs," said Thao Vu, who advocates on behalf of Vietnamese fishermen and their families.

The most heated exchange of the meeting came when she told the commission her comments were being disregarded at an earlier CMR meeting and public hearing.

"That is not due process. That's violating my civil rights, sir," she told the commission.

"If it wasn't a lie, we might listen to you. But it's a total lie. I was at the public hearing and I was at the last meeting," said CMR Chairman Richard Gollott, "And you had a chance to run your mouth over five minutes."

"Sir, you are the commissioner. I expect more civil language from you, sir. I'm not using unprofessional language," Vu responded.

"This is definitely not an us against them thing. It's what's best for those reefs. Because without those reefs, nobody is going to have a job," said Harold Strong.

In the end, commissioners took no action, choosing instead to table the issue until next month.

The CMR also heard a report Tuesday about the cultivation and "cultch"" planting on oyster reefs in the western Mississippi Sound. Both are designed to increase future production of the reefs in that area.

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