Number of shrimp boats on the decline

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Shrimp boats in the Mississippi Gulf is a sight for sore eyes one year after the BP oil spill.

"They are part of our economy and our society here on the coast and we're glad to see them out here shrimping," said the director for the Department of Marine Resources Shrimp and Crab Bureau Traci Floyd.

Boats were out on the water Wednesday for the earliest opening day for shrimp season on record.  Officials from the Department of Marine Resources said the early start was due to a high shrimp population, not because of flood waters from the Mississippi River.

"Based on state law in Mississippi, we must have a shrimp population of 68 count per pound, and that's what we have reached, and that's what the shrimpers are reporting," said Floyd.

Back in the harbor, all signs were go for a good product as folks lined up for the season's first catch.

"We were out at the beach all day, and we saw them out in the water, and we decided to come over and see what it's all about," said tourist Alyson Heska.

According to the numbers already reported, the start of this season is pretty slow.  Only 162 boats set sail on choppy waters for opening day.

"We have a very decreased participation in this fishery. Ten years ago we would report over a 1,000 boats on opening day, so fewer shrimpers. We have a lot of hardships to overcome," explained Floyd.

The number of shrimpers has been on decline since Katrina, and challenges like the oil spill and rising coasts haven't helped.  Still, officials are optimistic.

"It's again too early to tell. We need to get a few more days and nights under our belt," said Floyd.

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