Non-stop oil leak won't ruin Blessing of the Fleet festivities - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Non-stop oil leak won't ruin Blessing of the Fleet festivities

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Beautiful, stained glass windows at St. Michael Catholic Church in east Biloxi symbolize faith and the fishing industry.  For generations, the church has hosted one of the area's most beloved traditions -- the Blessing of the Fleet.

"We certainly want to celebrate how God has fed us out of the Gulf for many centuries," said Fr. Greg Barras.  "There seems to be some fear that with the oil spill, that it's gradually getting closer to shore, and that will then cancel the Blessing of the Fleet."

But the pastor said the celebration will go on this year, and prayers for the fishermen are needed more than ever.

"It is going to go on, and hopefully lift our mind and hearts to realize that coast people can get through all kinds of experiences," said Fr. Barras.

In fact, the blessing festivities even went on in 2006, the year after Katrina devastated the fishing industry.  It seems adversity pulls the community together.

"We're looking for a good turnout.  We feel like this year may be our biggest.  We hope that everyone will come out and pay tribute to the industry that built Biloxi," said Tanya Gollott-Swoope, the Blessing of the Fleet Coordinator.

As far as the shrimp season is concerned, it's also business as usual.  The Department of Marine Resources has been conducting weekly shrimp samplings in the Mississippi Sound since mid-April.

"We're just planning our shrimp season as if the oil spill's not going to come on shore.  We hope it doesn't," said DMR Marine Administrator Mike Brainard.   "The shrimp are averaging about 150 to 200 counts. They're still quite small yet, so we'll continue to sample.  We hope the oil does not come into our waters and we can actually have a shrimp season this year."

Mississippi's shrimp season typically starts mid-June.  The shrimp count must average 68 shrimp per pound before the season can open.

The blessing events start Thursday, June 3, with a Memorial Mass for deceased fishermen and end on Sunday with the ceremonial wreath dropping and boat parade. 

This year, organizers will hold a "Save Our Shrimpers" drive to collect donations.  The money will go to help licensed shrimpers who may be affected by the oil spill.

For more on Biloxi's Blessing of the Fleet, visit www.biloxiblessing.com

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