Mississippi waters are now open for shrimping, and on the first day, shrimpers reported plentiful catches of relatively small shrimp. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, their big concern now is price.
A shrimp boat trawls through the waters south of the Gulfport harbor. On board, Chuck Wolfe dumps out a basket of shrimp and quickly sorts through them, flipping any fish that got caught in the net back in the water. Asked what he thinks of the size of the shrimp he’s caught so far, "Small and no dock price," he responds. "So we're working real hard for not too much money."
That’s a dilemma many shrimpers are worried about this year. The price of domestic shrimp had been buoyed recently by a decline in imports, which had sunk due to a disease affecting shrimp in some Asian countries. Last year, though the season opened later, the catch was good:
"We were up, above average - prices were good, fishermen were catching shrimp - so last year was a real good year," says Mississippi Department of Marine Resources executive director Jamie Miller. In 2014, Mississippi shrimpers caught about 8 million pounds of shrimp with a dockside value of about $21 million.
This year, Miller says shrimp prices are down in part because of the increase in imports, and also because there's more inventory from previous years. Still, he’s hopeful for another good season.
"We think it's going to be above average," he says. "It's still early, but again we think the prices are going to remain low, and that ultimately is going to impact the fishermen. But it will be good for consumers - those people who want to buy shrimp this year will get a good price for them."
The DMR says 310 shrimp boats were spotted working in Mississippi waters Wednesday morning, down from 370 on opening day last year.