Shrimpers blame oil spill for dismal catch

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – When the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources reopened the Mississippi Sound a week ago, many shrimpers stocked up on plenty of ice. But these days, most boats remain docked at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

"Got no shrimp at all, just ice," said Nguyen Hoang as he opened some empty ice chests Friday.

Hoang said his catch has been dismal.

"None at all. Not even one," Hoang said.

When asked what could be causing the problem, Hoang responded, "I think everything, the shrimp, no oxygen, and it died."

Several other shrimpers said they're in the same boat.  Binh Vu of Biloxi said he spent two hours last week trawling the waters, but caught only one shrimp.

"During my 25 years of doing this, I have never experienced anything like this before," said Vu.  "Since the oil spill, it's been affecting our seafood. Every time I go out, I spend about $200 to $300 on ice, and fuel costs too. I am really sad. I'm worried about my livelihood, my future, my family."

"There are shrimp being caught in the Sound.  So far, we haven't seen anything that alarms us," said Tracy Floyd, DMR's Shrimp and Crab Bureau Director.

Floyd agreed that some areas of the Sound do have low oxygen levels.  But she said it's caused by very warm temperatures and calm waters, not the oil spill.

"There's not a lot of mixing, so we have a very low dissolved oxygen level in some areas," said Floyd. "And we'll see the fish kills like we saw this week and the shrimp are going to move away from that area.  Also, our brown shrimp season tends to cycle out this time of year, and we see more white shrimp coming in."

The shrimpers also said they are being blamed for all the turtle deaths lately, and they say it's BP's fault, not theirs. They also say the TEDs on the skimmer trawls are not working.

"When you pull the TEDs, the seaweed clogs up to TEDs," said Hoang. "When you pick it up and you put it down in the water, the TEDs roll around and no shrimp can come to the back."

"They are not required to put those TEDs in place, but it's just another opportunity for them to avoid those sea turtles altogether," said Floyd.

The shrimpers said they are also worried about the safety of the shrimp and fish in the Sound.  This week, the DMR received a letter from the Federal Drug Administration, re-affirming that the seafood is safe to eat.

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