Mississippi re-opens all state waters to shrimping this morning. The state had temporarily closed some areas because sampling showed there were too many shrimp below the legal limit. MPB's Evelina Burnett reports, shrimpers are hoping the catch has grown during this time.
Shrimper Mackenzie Travis fills a cooler with shrimp and ice for visitors here at the Pass Christian harbor. He’s planning to be out on the water this morning, though he’s worried there might not be much out there to catch.
"I hope that we catch plenty of shrimp and we catch them kind of fast," he says. "Being that the price is low, you have to catch them fast to make any money. But I'm not expecting much - we just had this jubilee, fish kill, no oxygen in the water or whatever the reasons are - and all the shrimp were pushed out of here. I think all the shrimp are in the gulf now, so I don't expect to do much."
The state Department of Marine Resources opened shrimp season on June 3 this year. But about 2 weeks later, it closed the waters north of the intracoastal waterway.
"What happened shortly after the season opened, we got about a week of rain," says Dave Burrage, a professor of marine resources at Mississippi State University. "And this had the effect of basically flushing the small shrimp, who were back in the estuaries and bays maturing, because the salinities had dropped so much, out on to the shrimping grounds. So all of a sudden, the shrimp that were on the shrimping grounds were now too small to meet the legal criteria."
The legal limit is 68 shrimp per pound. But Burrage says there's reason to hope that the shrimp out there now are bigger: "When the water temperature gets warm, and we have optimum salinity ... the shrimp will grow a count size in a week ... they grow very quickly."
But shrimpers are also worried about low prices. Burrage says the dockside price is down about 40 percent from last year, in large part due to an increase in imports.