June 7, 2019
BILOXI, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Mississippi State University (MSU) and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS), are working together on an intra-agency and university task force created by Governor Phil Bryant to monitor environmental conditions and measure the impacts on marine species in the Mississippi Sound.
“Last week I sent a letter to the Department of Commerce requesting that Secretary Ross issue a federal fisheries disaster declaration for Mississippi due to the Bonnet Carré Spillway opening. I am deeply concerned over the influx of fresh water into the Mississippi Sound and the adverse effects it is having on our marine resources.” said Gov. Bryant. “I appreciate the Department of Marine Resources and the University of Southern Mississippi coordination of this important effort and all that they do to protect and preserve our marine resources.”
MDMR is currently monitoring the impacts of the spillway on the fisheries in Mississippi. Scientists are using fishery independent methods to sample oyster reefs, shrimp, crabs and finfish while increasing the number of water sampling locations and expanding the collection of hydrological parameters, such as water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity to accurately report current conditions.
In addition to data being collected on marine species, commercial landings data are also being evaluated monthly for any trends which may indicate that the spillway is having a direct effect on specific species.
IMMS, MDMR and the MSU Department of Veterinary College are monitoring the increased number of stranded or deceased dolphins and sea turtles being reported in the Mississippi Sound to determine potential causes. MDEQ will continue to perform water quality analysis on public beaches to ensure it is safe for human contact and recreation.
“I believe it is important for the task force to collect the necessary data to accurately assess the impacts of the spillway on our natural resources,” said Joe Spraggins, MDMR Executive Director. “We want the public to be informed about what is happening in the Mississippi Sound.”
The task force reports to the governor weekly and will provide science-based facts to the media about water quality, water quantity, seafood and safety risk to humans who come in contact with water from the Mississippi Sound.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is dedicated to enhancing, protecting and conserving marine interests of the state by managing all marine life, public trust wetlands, adjacent uplands and waterfront areas to provide for the optimal commercial, recreational, educational and economic uses of these resources consistent with environmental concerns and social changes. Visit the DMR online at dmr.ms.gov.