BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - This could be a banner season for Mississippi shrimpers. But their good fortune is not because of a bountiful harvest at sea. The success of this year's shrimp season is tied to the oil crisis in the gulf.
A growing number of shrimp boat captains are no longer dragging their nets in search of decent sized shrimp. They're checking oil boom and getting a handsome paycheck from BP. It is strangely quiet at St. Michael's shrimp boat dock in Biloxi.
"A hurricane has never put us out of business like this, you know. It's pretty bad," said owner-operator David Luke.
The conveyor belt that normally unloads fresh shrimp is shutdown. Boxes usually filled with ice and shrimp are stacked and empty.
"All our boats are working for BP right now, and we have one boat left that's shrimping. And when he comes in, he's going to work for BP. So, it will be 100 percent of our shrimp boats here will be working for BP," said Luke.
"I had great expectations, until this happened," said the DMR's Bill Richardson, while updating the CMR board on this year's shrimp season.
His update before the Commission on Marine Resources confirmed what most everyone suspected. Shrimpers are checking boom for BP rather than dragging their nets in search of a decent catch.
A large number of shrimp boat captains got called-up by BP right after the season opened.
"And I think that's had a large effect on what boats are working now, just a guess. I've been on the water a lot, and I don't think I've seen 15 boats working total. But a lot of that has to do with a lot of these boats got called up. And they're doing boom work," said Richardson.
David Luke doesn't blame the shrimpers for going to work for BP. After all, a fisherman can earn up to $3,000 a day.
And while he can supply fuel for the BP vessels, he'll no longer do it on credit. He wants to see the cash up front.
"I'll take care of all their boats, as long as they got the money up front. When the money run out, the fuel run out," said Luke.
"It's hard to make a living collecting shrimp, and BP is paying pretty good money. So, a lot of our shrimp captains are in fact working for the company rather than shrimping. But the shrimp are there, yes sir," said DMR Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker.
Shrimpers who are dropping their nets are enjoying good prices for their catch. Bill Richardson says the price for average sized shrimp is double what it was last year.
But a fisherman would have to catch plenty of shrimp, to equal that three thousand dollars a day BP is offering.
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