BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Here’s an opposite of the normal kind of fish tale: Mississippi authorities believe commercial fishermen haven’t been owning up to all the fish they’ve caught.
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Joe Spraggins announced Tuesday that the second half of the state’s commercial fishing season for speckled trout, a much-sought species along the Gulf Coast, won’t happen.
That’s because officials believe commercial fishermen didn’t fully report their catches from the first half of the season.
Spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said the closure doesn’t affect recreational and charter fishermen, who must adhere to certain size limits for speckled trout.
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Normally, Mississippi has two seasons in state waters for the saltwater fish — one from Feb. 1 through May 31 and another running from June 1 to Oct. 31.
However, the department said in a Tuesday statement that officials believe the entire 50,000-pound (22,500-kilogram) quota for the year has already been caught. That quota is supposed to be split evenly between the two seasons, making sure speckled trout aren’t overfished.
Commercial fishermen or fish dealers are supposed to fill out documents — called trip tickets, documenting all the speckled trout caught for the commercial market.
Spraggins told WLOX-TV that the state Marine Patrol — the department’s law enforcement arm — has been investigating for about 45 days.
Violations of Mississippi fishing laws can be punished with penalties up to $10,000, forfeitures and suspension or revocation of fishing licenses. Repeat offenders can be sent to jail up to 30 days in some instances.
Spraggins said the closure could hurt honest fishermen and deprive restaurants of locally-caught fish.