Mississippi's marine extension program, officially known as the Mississippi Sea Grant Advisory Service, was initiated in 1970 to provide an extension arm for the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium's parent organization, the University Marine Center. The affiliation of this extension program with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service (MCES) was recognized early in the Mississippi Sea Grant Program's life. Initially, the Advisory Service Program consisted of one half-time Extension employee whose primary responsibilities were recreation and tourism. This tie between the Advisory Service Program and the MCES resulted in the tailoring of the Advisory Service Program to be compatible with both the MCES's administrative structure and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Program's information delivery needs.
By the mid-1970, the Sea Grant Advisory Services Program grew to three full time employees, two of whom were primarily devoted to the commercial fishing and seafood processing industries, as well as recreational fishing and environmental issues. The other was devoted primarily to youth education and to other aspects of the recreation and tourism industry. In 1975, David Veal, head of the Coastal Research and Extension Center (CREC) was promoted to program leader of the Sea Grant Advisory Service Program. Between 1975 and 1995, significant changes took place in the staffing of the Advisory Service Program. As a percentage of total effort, the total time devoted to the commercial fishing and seafood processing industry decreased. Other discipline areas were included as major programming thrusts, including aquaculture, wetlands, and natural resource economics.
Coastal Aquaculture Unit
During the mid-to-late 1980's two Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station research facilities were established with federal and private partnerships on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 1985, as a result of an educational program held by the Mississippi Sea Grant Advisory Service on aquaculture in coastal Mississippi, Mississippi Power Company and MSU jointly agreed to establish a cooperative research unit to focus on aquaculture suited for coastal areas. Mississippi Power Company provided property and $250,000 for the start up of this unit. In addition, substantial state and federal resources were focused on the establishment of the Coastal Aquaculture Unit (CAU). The original organizational structure included it as part of the South Mississippi Branch Station of MAFES. In 1987, MCES approached MAFES about joint appointment for the program leader of Advisory Services. The position of coordinator of Coastal Aquaculture was created by the Division of Agriculture and the Sea Grant Advisory Service program leader was promoted to that position. It was later transferred to a newly created Coastal Research and Extension Center. The Coastal Aquaculture Unit was closed in January 2005.
Experimental Seafood Processing Laboratory
In the late 1980s, Mississippi State University and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), created a cooperative agreement establishing the Experimental Seafood Processing Laboratory (ESPL). The laboratory's mission is to focus attention on the potential of unexploited Gulf resources. This cooperative agreement provides for joint staffing of facility with NMFS providing a substantial part of the equipment and MSU providing physical facilities. The Experimental Seafood Processing Lab was completed in 1989.
In 1988, the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine at MSU created the Coastal
Research and Extension Center (CREC), which all of the Division's units in five south Mississippi counties were
included under one administrative umbrella. The CREC, as then
structured, included the Mississippi Sea Grant Advisory Service
Program, county extension staffs in Harrison, Hancock, Jackson,
George, and Stone Counties, an area horticulture specialist,
area consumer money management specialist, area nutrition specialist,
area vegetable marketing specialist, and the CAU and ESPL. In1990,
after a restructure under the MCES, the number of counties included
as part of the CREC was increased from 5 to 12.
The CREC is structured to provide education and outreach for Mississippi coastal residents regarding almost every aspect of the coastal environment - fisheries, seafood processing, aquaculture, wetland management, marine industry, recreation, economics and law. Emerging issues over the last several years have provided opportunities for extramural applied research funding which is used to support the education and outreach programs developed by specialist at the CREC. Therefore, there has been a marked shift from pure extension programming toward a more balanced blend of research and education in keeping with the overall philosophy which led to the development of research and extension centers throughout Mississippi. This new approach has served our clientele well, although in practice it is often difficult to distinguish between "pure research" and "pure extension" in the overall programs the specialists have developed and have responsibility.