Fishermen say shrimp are decent, but prices dismal this season

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The catch is decent enough, but prices are pitiful.

That phrase perhaps best describes the shrimp season in Mississippi this summer.

Mid-to-late September is when shrimp season begins winding down, with many fishermen headed to the oyster reefs instead.

It's a familiar refrain for Mississippi shrimpers:  High fuel costs, low prices for their catch and increasing competition from cheap, foreign imports.

The DMR reports shrimp landings through the month of July were up about a million pounds over the same period a year ago.

However, because of low prices, an increasing number of fishermen are being forced to sell their shrimp from the docks, rather than at the seafood factories.

"We're down here every day with the fresh shrimp.  I encourage you to come out and get 'em because the season is almost over with," said fishermen Ryan Bradley.

Bradley sells fresh shrimp off the docks in Pass Christian.  Even though many fishermen are now turning to oyster season, fresh shrimp are still abundant.

"These shrimp right here were caught last night. All the shrimp we catch are caught at night time. We come in every morning. Fresh shrimp. No shrimp we sell is old. Everything is caught the night before, so everything is fresh," said Bradley, while displaying the catch in the ice chest.

Mann is among a group of Vietnamese shrimpers selling their catch at the Biloxi small craft harbor.

"It's been okay. The beginning of the season it was all right. But since August, from August until now, it's slow," he said.

Several shrimpers told me they can't survive on the per pound price being paid by the factory this year. That's why so many have chosen to sell their catch, straight from the docks.

"Shrimp season has been good, as long as we can peddle our shrimp. Can't afford to go to the factory with them. I couldn't put diesel back in my boat if I did that, so, we're forced to peddle them," said Judy Lesso, from the docks at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

Lesso is a name synonymous with seafood in Biloxi.  But Judy Lesso says with the factory paying just 60 to 65 cents a pound, the only feasible alternative is selling dockside.

"That's the only way we can keep working. Five generations and we've never had to peddle our shrimp. Have always gone to the factory, until this year," she said.

It gives local shrimp lovers plenty of choices.

"Plenty of good, wild Mississippi shrimp to buy down here. You can get 'em in the Pass. Get 'em in Biloxi. Do the right thing. Support your fellow American here. Come buy some fresh shrimp here local. We work hard to get 'em for you fresh," said Ryan Bradley.

Shrimpers who sell from their boats say Saturdays are often the busiest. Large shrimp are selling for $2-$3 a pound.

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