PASCAGOULA -- Dave Saucier, a recreational fisherman, asked the Jackson County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday not to support bills in the state Legislature that would allow menhaden companies to keep redfish its boats catch unintentionally.
It's called bycatch and a bill in the House and one in the Senate would allow boat captains for Omega Protein to keep 45 redfish per trip.
Omega Protein is the menhaden industry in Jackson County and Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, authored the bill in the Senate.
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State Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Moss Point, authored the bill in the House with a different limit, but said he hoped to change his bill in committee to also make the limit 45 fish.
Saucier, who served a three-year term on the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, told the supervisors he was representing himself Tuesday, but warned such a law, allowing menhaden boats to keep these prized fish, could hurt recreational fishermen.
Catching redfish in federal waters is illegal. But in Mississippi waters, there's a 60,000-pound commercial quota, he said. Allowing Omega Protein boat captains to keep 45 fish per trip would quickly eat into the commercial limit, he said.
The additional harvest could also affect the recreational limit of three fish per angler per day, Saucier told the board.
He said he has asked a legislator to request a stock-impact assessment on redfish, and asked county supervisors to withhold their support for legislation until the science comes in.
Wiggins said Omega Protein, which fishes for menhaden in Mississippi waters, asked him to file the bill.
"They are looking out for their captains," he said. "The way the law is now, there is zero tolerance. This allows law enforcement some leeway. As in any kind of law, there should be flexibility."
Paul Hampton, Sun Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.