Agents with the state Department of Marine Resources' Marine Patrol division are checking out seafood dealers in an attempt to make certain they are following the laws. And inspections are extending far beyond the three coastal counties.
Marine Patrol Cpl. Patrick Carron said the agency has issued 24 citations since the crackdown started last June.
The citations were issued to dealers throughout the state, including ones in Jackson and Laurel and as far north as Desoto, Tupelo and Columbus. The selling of seafood is regulated through Miss. Code 49-15-28.
"We're always inspecting the seafood dealers on the Coast," Carron said. "Now, we are concentrating on areas outside of the coastal counties."
Carron said the first thing that is checked at a place selling seafood -- be it in a building or on the side of the road -- is to see if the dealer has a valid license through DMR.
A license can be obtained for $100, but some classes on food-safety handling may also be required to sell seafood in the state.
He said the seafood is then checked to ensure it was properly and safely harvested.
"We have to make sure that it didn't come from some areas that have been closed because of health concerns," Carron said.
The selling of illegal seafood costs the state millions of dollars in lost revenues, he said, but public safety is always a top priority.
"A lot of the shops we visited were selling oysters that weren't properly labeled and they didn't have expiration dates on them -- as you know, bad oysters could kill you," Carron said. "The shops are repacking oysters and selling them without expiration dates, which the law requires."
Carron said anyone wishing to purchase fresh seafood from a vendor anywhere should first do one thing.
"The first thing you should do is ask to see their license to sell seafood," he said. "If they don't have a license, you probably don't want to fool with them."