2005 Regular Session
To: Ports and Marine Resources
By: Senator(s) Gollott
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 49-15-27, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE MINIMUM RENTAL FOR OYSTER BOTTOM LEASES; TO REQUIRE THE COMMISSION ON MARINE RESOURCES TO AWARD LEASES WITHIN A TIME CERTAIN; TO REQUIRE LEASE RENTAL FEES TO BE PAID INTO THE SEAFOOD FUND; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 49-15-27, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
49-15-27. The commission is hereby granted full and complete authority to lease the bottoms within its jurisdiction upon the following terms and conditions:
(1) All areas within the commission's jurisdiction, not designated tonging reefs by this chapter, or hereinafter designated tonging reefs by the commission; all areas not designated natural reefs by the commission, and all areas not within the boundaries of riparian property owners may be leased by the commission.
(2) All individual lessees shall be residents of the State of Mississippi, or if a firm or corporation, such firm or corporation shall be organized under the laws of the State of Mississippi.
(3) No individual, corporation, partnership or association may lease less than five (5) acres nor more than one hundred (100) acres; provided, however, that in the case of an individual there shall not be counted towards such limitation any lands leased by a corporation, partnership or association in which such individual owns ten percent (10%) or less interest and, in the case of a corporation, partnership or association, there shall not be counted toward such limitation any lands leased by an individual stockholder, partner or associate thereof who owns ten percent (10%) or less interest in such corporation, partnership or association.
(4) Individuals, firms or corporations desiring to lease bottoms shall make application to the commission in writing, describing the area to be leased, and the price proposed to be paid therefor.
(5) The commission shall consider such applications in the order in which each is filed and may award, within sixty (60) days, * * * a lease to the area described in the application upon payment of the rent in advance.
(6) Such leases shall be for a term of one (1) year, with the right of lessee to renew the lease of an additional year, and from year to year, at the same ground rental so long as lessee actively cultivates and gathers oysters, and complies with the provisions of this chapter, provided that no lease shall be renewed for more than twenty-five (25) years total. * * * No lease may be transferred without approval by the commission of the transfer.
(7) The commission shall fix a ground rental at not less than Five Dollars ($5.00) per acre.
(8) The commission shall keep an accurate chart of the areas within its jurisdiction and shall mark on such chart those areas which are under lease. All leases shall be marked by appropriate poles, stakes or buoys of such material as will not injure watercraft, at the expense of the leaseholder. The commission shall keep an accurate book, designated "Mississippi Oyster Farms" which shall contain copies of all leases. If any lease be cancelled or expire, such fact shall be noted on the face of such lease. Lessees shall be "oyster farmers" for the purposes of any grants, aid, subsidies or other assistance from the federal government or other governmental or private agencies.
(9) All funds derived from leasing shall be paid into the Seafood Fund under 49-15-17, for use by the commission to further oyster production in this state, which includes plantings of oysters and cultch materials.
(10) All leases made by the commission under the authority of this section shall be subject to the paramount right of the state and any of its political subdivisions authorized by law, to promote and develop ports, harbors, channels, industrial or recreational projects, and all such leases shall contain a provision that in the event such authorized public body shall require the area so leased or any part thereof for such public purposes, that the lease shall be terminated on reasonable notice fixed by the commission in such lease. On the termination of any lease, the lessees shall have the right to remove any oysters within the leased area within such time as may be fixed by the commission and in accordance with such reasonable rules and regulations as the commission may adopt.
Any person convicted of taking oysters from leased land or from waters that are not of a safe sanitary quality without a permit as provided in Section 49-15-37 shall, on the first offense, forfeit all equipment used, exclusive of any boat or boats; and be fined not to exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) or sentenced not to exceed one (1) year in the county jail, or both. Subsequent convictions shall be punishable by forfeiture of all equipment, including any boat or boats; and a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) or not to exceed two (2) years in prison, or both such fine and imprisonment.
No lease of any area shall be made unless and until the commission shall have given at least fifteen (15) days' public notice of its intention to lease such area, such notice to be given by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such county. * * *
The commission is enjoined to cooperate with the Jackson County Port Authority, the Harrison County Development Commission, the municipal port commission and other port and harbor agencies, so that oyster beds shall not be planted in close proximity to navigable channels. The commission or lessee shall have no right of action as against any such public body for damages accruing to any natural reef or leased reef by any necessary improvement of such channel in the interest of shipping, commerce, navigation or other purpose authorized by law.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.