BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – The large load arrived Tuesday at Quality Seafood at the corner of Caillavet and Division Streets. Employees spent the morning unloading and packing 2,630 pounds of fresh, white, Mississippi shrimp.
"We got a couple of hundred pounds here and there, but this is our first nice size load that we've gotten in from our Mississippi people. These came from the west side of Mississippi, near the Pearlington area," said Business Manager Jim Gunkel.
Some of the shrimp immediately went on sale at the Biloxi business. The rest will be packed and sold to wholesalers and other seafood markets across the coast, or boiled to order for casinos.
"So if you go to different buffets up and down the coast, you'll see our shrimp in there," said Gunkel. "It feels great. It's like business is coming back to normal."
Gunkel said sales have been anything but normal since the oil spill closed state waters to shrimping back in June. He said before the disaster, the business received between 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of brown shrimp a week, and up to 10,000 pounds of white shrimp a week. Gunkel said business has not picked up, even though the waters re-opened a couple of weeks ago.
"We're down probably 18 to 22 percent in the seafood market here, and the wholesale's down about 25 to 28 percent. So it's been pretty severe. So we're hoping to rescue our season with this white shrimp," said Gunkel.
And then there's the lingering concern among consumers over the safety of the seafood. Gunkel is optimistic those fears will go away, once people see more fresh shrimp and fish coming in.
"We take it home and eat it. So if we eat it, everybody else should eat it," he said. "I think once the word gets out, people are educated enough to understand that everything is safe and they're going to be back buying shrimp again."
Gunkel added that the industry will eventually bounce back once more federal waters in the Gulf are re-opened to shrimping and more shrimpers are able to go back to work.