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Agencies re-stock river as part of post-spill recovery efforts

PEARL RIVER COUNTY — Approximately 14,000 pounds of harvestable-sized blue catfish will be released into the Pearl River near Picayune (Walkiah Bluff) as part of a continued recovery effort by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The catfish, donated by a Mississippi catfish producer, range in weight from five to more than 20 pounds. They will be ready to spawn next summer, said Curtis Summerlin, hatchery supervisor at MDWFP.

This marks the fourth stocking in the Pearl River since a 2011 equipment malfunction at Temple-Inland Paper Mill in Bogalusa, La., led to the accidental spillage of paper-making by-product into the river. This spillage depleted oxygen and killed an estimated 219,000 fish and freshwater mussels. The kill stretched 80 miles of the Pearl River, including about 40 miles bordering Mississippi.
The company has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine, $220,000 for fish stocking and $45,000 to reimburse MDEQ for response and recovery costs.

To date, approximately 2,500 largemouth bass, 8,541 channel catfish and 118,950 redear sunfish (shellcracker or chinquapin) have been released in the lower Pearl River. Additional fish will be stocked as they become available from MDWFP fish hatcheries.

“Next year, these fish will be spawning and producing young blue catfish to help replenish the numbers in the river,” Summerlin said. “It’s our way of helping the Pearl River recover from this man-made accident.”

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