Local shrimper: "It has been awful"

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - "It has been awful," said shrimper Frank Parker, about this season's disappointing beginning.

"We should average anywhere between 2,000, 2,500 pounds a day," Parker said.  "An exceptional day would be five, six, seven thousand pounds. This year for the opening day, we had 150 pounds."

He said his catch has increased a little bit since opening day, but it's still the worst season he's ever seen in his life. He said it's not just the meager amount of shrimp that's creating hurdles for shrimpers.

"When I bought this boat 10 years ago, the price of diesel was 55 cents per gallon," he said.  "The wholesale price for medium shrimp was about two and a quarter [$2.25 per pound of shrimp]. Now it's just about opposite. You know diesel is $2 per gallon, [and] the price of medium shrimp is under a dollar."

Parker and his friends said it's almost impossible to make a profit this season.

"I mean you can make a little bit," Parker said to several other shrimpers. "After I pay my crew, after the boat gets paid for, what we gonna make? $40 or $50 a piece?"

Since the wholesale prices have turned down, shrimpers like Parker are depending more than ever on individual buyers.

"I didn't buy this big of a boat to retail shrimp off the back of the deck," said Parker of his 60' vessel. "If I had wanted to get into the retail shrimp business, I'd have bought a smaller boat."

To make matters worse, Parker said fewer people have come to the dock this year than ever before. He said as the business worsens, the number of shrimpers are dwindling.

"There are definitely fewer shrimpers," Parker said. "I probably know more people that are out of the business than are still in it."

But Parker isn't going anywhere, at least for now.

"I'm not done," he said. "There are a lot of other guys who'd say they're done, you know, but I'll try to put my head down and just keep working."

Parker said he hopes things will turn around during white shrimp season, which starts in a few months.

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