The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission passed a notice of intent at its Aug. 7, 2008 meeting to enact rules for the oyster seed ground vessel permit.
The proposed rule would implement Act 922 of the 2008 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature (R.S. 56:433.1), which established that any oysters taken from the public natural reefs or the oyster seed grounds or reservations, except those in Calcasieu Lake or Sabine Lake, shall be placed only on a vessel which has an oyster seed ground vessel permit issued exclusively by the department. Per statute, the oyster seed ground vessel permit requirement will be applicable to license year 2009 and thereafter and shall become null and void and of no effect beginning on Nov. 15, 2013.
Specifics of the Notice of Intent are as follows:
A. Policy. For license year beginning 2009 any oysters taken from the public natural reefs or the oyster seed grounds or reservations, except those in Calcasieu Lake or Sabine Lake, shall be placed only on a vessel which has an oyster seed ground permit issued exclusively by the department. The permit does not grant any rights to the oyster resource or any rights to harvest oysters from the waters of the state and shall not be sold, exchanged, or otherwise transferred. No new applications for vessel permits shall be accepted after Dec. 31, 2009. The permit shall be valid for up to one calendar year beginning on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 31 of the same year, but may be made available for purchase beginning on Nov. 15 for the immediately following license year. The cost per permit shall be $15 for residents and $60 for non-residents.
B. Eligibility. Only vessel owners meeting the eligibility requirements outlined in R.S. 56:433.1 shall be issued a permit. Permit applicants must provide to the Licensing Section of the department proof of vessel ownership by submitting the current certificate of registration or certificate of documentation with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to the Licensing Section of the department.
C. Proof of Participation: In addition to the requirement in Subsection B herein, applicants must meet either paragraph 1, 2 or 3 below to be issued a permit:
1. Applicant owned a vessel that was properly licensed and registered in applicant's name during a time in which department trip ticket records demonstrate that the vessel had oyster landings in the state of Louisiana between Jan. 1, 2004 and May 31, 2007.
2. For applicants who purchased or constructed a vessel and licensed that vessel for commercial fishing in the state of Louisiana between Jan. 1, 2004 and April 30, 2008, and department trip ticket records demonstrate that oysters were landed on that vessel in the state of Louisiana between the time of the vessel's purchase or construction and July 1, 2008.
3. For applicants with a newly constructed vessel or a vessel under construction, the vessel has not been previously registered in any state or foreign country or issued a USCG documentation number, and the applicant presents to the Licensing Section of the Department:
a. A signed, dated, and notarized verification from a marine surveyor qualified and accredited by the National Society of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) that construction of the vessel for which the permit will be issued was at least 50 percent complete by July 1, 2008 or,
b. A signed, dated, and notarized verification from the corporation that built the vessel that construction of the vessel for which the permit will be issued was at least 50 percent complete by July 1, 2008.
D. Applications. Applications for the initial permit shall only be accepted by the department from such persons who meet eligibility requirements as outlined in R.S. 56:433.1 and this rule. Applications shall only be made on forms supplied by the department. No new applications for vessel permits shall be accepted after Dec. 31, 2009. Only permit holders who held a valid permit during the prior year shall be eligible to purchase a permit for the following license year.
1. Permits are non-transferable and only the vessel listed on the permit can be used with the permit and only one vessel is allowed per permit. The original valid permit must be on board at all times while operating under the permit.
2. Permits cannot be assigned or transferred or used by any other vessel than the one to which permit was issued.
3. Vessels engaged in an activity for which this permit is required must have onboard the vessel the valid original permit and shall show the permit upon demand to a duly authorized agent of the department.
F. Appeals. An applicant may appeal a decision of the department denying a permit to the Oyster Seed Ground Vessel Permit Appeals Board. An appeal must be received by the department no later than 30 days after the date of denial by the department on a form prescribed by the department. The appeal must include a statement as to why the applicant believes the department incorrectly determined the applicant ineligible for the permit or why the applicant is entitled to a permit based on a determination of hardship. The appeal shall include any documentation in support thereof.
1. The board's decision shall be limited to a determination of whether the department incorrectly determined that the applicant was ineligible for a permit or a determination that the applicant should be issued a permit based on determination of hardship.
2. The board shall review all information provided and after deliberation determine whether an applicant should be issued a permit. A decision to issue a permit shall be upon favorable vote of the majority of the appointed members of the board. The board shall issue a written decision which clearly states the rationale for the decision.
3. The board shall make a decision within 60 days of the date of appeal.
G. Enforcement. The taking of oysters from public natural reefs or oyster seed grounds or reservations without an oyster seed ground permit is a class 2 violation and upon conviction will require use of a vessel monitoring system for that vessel.
Interested persons may submit written comments on the proposed rule to Karen Foote, Administrator, Marine Fisheries Division, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000 no later than 4:30 p.m., Oct. 2, 2008.