SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Mississippi oyster fishermen can participate in a bag dredge exchange program through the state Department of Marine Resources. The program will allow fisherman who qualify to exchange a basket dredge for a bag dredge at no cost.
Last year, the Commission on Marine Resources banned the use of basket dredges because they can cause damage to the reefs.
To qualify, applicants must be a Mississippi resident and possess a current commercial Oyster Dredge License. They also had to have a valid Mississippi Resident Commercial Oyster License (Type 7) during the 2011-2012 license year. A license year runs from April 1 through March 31. Applicants also must have had a valid license in one of the following years: 2007-2008, 2008-2009 or 2009-2010.
This program is part of restoration activities after the opening of the Bonnet Carre' Spillways in 2011 which killed nearly 90 percent of the oysters on the western reef.
"The agency has begun several fisheries restoration activities to help mitigate the impacts of the Bonnet Carre' Spillway opening," said Joe Jewell, director of Marine Fisheries for MDMR. "These programs, including the dredge exchange, will help us to restore and enhance habitat and monitor activities and recovery efforts."
Qualified participants who want to exchange their basket dredge for a bag dredge should bring their current license, a valid form of identification, and the basket dredge to the MDMR office at 1141 Bayview Ave. in Biloxi. Staff will inspect basket dredges between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After the inspection, the applicant will surrender the basket dredge and receive a certificate for a new bag dredge.