Below the thirty-first parallel the Pearl River is the boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi. Its estuary empties into the Mississippi Sound - an arm of the sea separating the coast of Mississippi on the north from the Louisiana shore on the south. At the turn of the century oystering was a thriving industry, and the absence of a lateral seaward boundary led to ongoing friction between the oystermen of Louisiana and Mississippi. In addition to the problem of licensing fishing boats, Mississippi law permitted dredging oyster beds, whereas Louisiana authorities imposed fines on those caught using dredges. By 1902, an armed Louisiana patrol vessel was on duty in the contested waters. To resolve the dispute the attorneys-general of the two states agreed to a "friendly suit" in the form of an original case in equity before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Louisiana filed its motion as the plaintiff in October, 1902.



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