DMR Seeks Commercial Fishermen Feedback

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources will receive $25,000,000 over the next five years to help the commercial fishing industry recover from the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

Commercial fishermen would get an economic boost from the recovery money by doing work for the DMR. The department is planning a monitoring program similar to one that was launched shortly after Katrina.

Shrimpers and other commercial fishermen would be paid for filling out notebooks when they drop their nets.

"They would tell us the areas they would work, the times they were out fishing, by catch information and other things such as that that we didn't capture before. So, those things help us with management decisions," explained Dale Diaz, who head's the DMR fisheries division.

The oyster industry is already showing considerable progress bouncing back from the hurricane.

"I think we're right on track with that. In fact, I think we're a little ahead of schedule," said the DMR's Scott Gordon, who oversees the oyster industry.

During the first round of federal funding, oyster fishermen were paid to take part in a "relay" program, moving oysters from Biloxi Bay to the reefs out front.

"We would hope to do some additional projects with the fishermen such as the oyster relaying project," Gordon says.

Nearly two and a half years after Katrina, the commercial fishing industry has made remarkable progress in its storm recovery. But there are still some issues that need attention.

"There's still some infrastructure needs that need to be addressed. Docking is still a problem. We're not back at capacity for boats to get ice and fuel that we were before the storm. So, there's still some issues to be addressed," said Diaz.

The recovery program is another step toward a brighter future for the commercial fishing fleet.