Jackson County

Jackson County supervisors vote to keep menhaden boats one mile out

PASCAGOULA -- Jackson County's Board of Supervisors decided Monday to have its meetings videotaped and posted for the public to see online.

Also on Monday, the board, in a split vote, decided to ask the state to restrict menhaden fishing to one mile off the Jackson County mainland.

A spokesman for Omega Protein, a commercial menhaden fishing operation out of Moss Point, tried to convince the board that it would hurt their $46 million-a-year industry, but county Supervisor Troy Ross said he sees it as a protection measure for fish in the Mississippi Sound.

Company spokesman Rick Schillaci told the board the Omega Protein already self-imposes a half-mile restriction in Jackson County and asked county leaders not to impose one mile.

"There is no real justification of you pushing us off," Schillaci said, "And you're going to send a message to businesses in Jackson County that this Board of Supervisors is not supportive of industry."

He accused the board of bowing to recreational fishermen.

"I support your business," Ross told Schillaci. "But lets move it out and conserve our resources so people in the future can fish too.

"You're up here trying to spin it," Ross said. "You say we're trying to destroy your business, and we're not."

Supervisor Randy Bosarge, who brought up the issue of asking the Department of Marine Resources to prohibit catching menhaden within a mile of Jackson County, said he heard more from homeowners along the beach who were tired of seeing Omega Protein boats closer to shore than those of recreational fishermen.

Both Harrison and Hancock counties restrict fishing to one mile off their shores, but the menhaden industry is located in Jackson County and has been for 60 years.

Supervisor Barry Cumbest said Omega Protein has been a good partner for Jackson County for a long time and the limit is a mistake. Supervisor Melton Harris said its one of the last industries in Moss Point, which is struggling. The vote was 3-2, with Harris and Cumbest opposing.

In a unanimous vote early in the meeting, the board decided to go with local television station WGUD to video tape county supervisor meetings for more transparency and give people who can't attend a way to see the meeting.

They voted to negotiate with WGUD and have the meetings recorded for the web and not to be broadcast. WGUD will have a link to the recording that the county can post on its website.

Supervisors agreed it would run unedited. The options should keep the cost down to less than $800 a month, supervisors said, possibly as low as $400.