BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has set Thursday, June 3, as the opening day of shrimp season.
But the DMR also announced Tuesday that a portion of Mississippi waters will close to shrimpers and other fishermen. Before now only federal waters had been closed to the growing oil slick in the Gulf.
DMR Director Dr. Bill Walker told WLOX that the agency's plan has always been to close water where any kind of oily material appeared. Governor Barbour said Tuesday that a weathered "mousse" material with an oily sheen streaming behind it was discovered Tuesday near Petit Bois Island.
To visualize the area closed, draw a line right down the middle of Horn Island. From that line, the closed area extends from the mainland to three miles south of the island where the federal water line begins, then east to the Mississippi-Alabama state line. The closed area stops at the mainland, and does not affect places like Graveline Bayou.
"Our rivers, bays, and bayous are still open for fishing," Dr. Walker said.
Shrimp season is opening about ten days early. Dr. Walker said the shrimp that officials have sampled show no signs of oil contamination. The DMR and the Mississippi Health Department agree that shrimp from Mississippi waters are safe to eat.
"We're just trying to be careful and be a little overprotective in closing these waters. At the same time, we want to help our shrimpers, fishermen and processors by opening a little early and allowing them to harvest some product and make some money."
Again, Mississippi's shrimp season will open Thursday, June 3, at 6am. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) said the opening will be in Mississippi territorial waters west of the East Biloxi ship channel.
The area opening will include all Mississippi waters west of a line beginning at Beacon "18" in the East Biloxi Bay Channel including the channel, then following the eastern side of the channel in a southerly direction until it intersects with the Mississippi/EEZ 3 mile nautical line. The northern boundary will begin at Beacon "18" in the East Biloxi Bay Channel and then southwesterly along the most direct line to the southernmost point on Deer Island; then westerly following the north shore of Deer Island to the westernmost tip; then westerly in the most direct line to Biloxi Beacon "8"; then westerly following the meandering of the shoreline at a distance of one-half mile from there to a point on the centerline of the CSX Railroad Bridge over St. Louis Bay; then westerly along the centerline of the bridge to a point one-half mile south of the western abutment of the CSX Railroad Bridge; then southwesterly following the meandering of the shoreline at a distance of one-half mile there from to a point one-half mile east of the mouth of Bayou Caddy; then westerly to the mouth of Bayou Caddy; then southwesterly following the meandering of the shoreline to the Mississippi-Louisiana state line.
These waters may close on short notice if it is detected that oil is moving into the open area. All boats engaged in catching or transporting shrimp in or from the waters of Mississippi must be legally licensed.
For the latest updates on the Mississippi shrimp fishery, call the toll-free Shrimp Information Hotline at 1-866-We Trawl (866-938-7295).
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