Shrimpers concerned about the future of their livelihood

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Commission on Marine Resources heard Monday from shrimpers and fishermen about their state of their industry. Many feel it's not good and getting worse. They say a centuries old profession is dying.

Shrimpers are critical of state agency reports about the size of this year's catch.

"I have been on that wharf many, many times," Delores Suarez said. "I know the boats that have shrimp every day. I know the fishermen who have shrimp every day.  They have not had them this year. The information that has been put out is false."

When you talk with shrimpers, you get a real sense of their growing frustration. They say they are being hammered from every angle, from the oil spill, high fuel prices, low dock prices and even being blamed for turtle deaths. Because of the lack of solid evidence in those turtle deaths, NOAA decided to not place further restrictions on shrimpers. But some shrimpers feel they are still a target.

Danny Ross Jr. fishes for a living.

"We haven't gotten any positive feedback from them that we didn't kill those turtles," Ross said.  "We had a couple of comments, but when it was time to get on camera and say things, it was lacking."

One commission member, Jimmy Taylor, did show his support.

"We felt that you all were being unfairly blamed for something when you weren't even shrimping at that time of year," Taylor said.

Fisherman James "Catfish" Miller said seafood safety is also a concern.

"You keep saying it's okay, the seafood is safe, this is safe, that is safe.  I've been out there," Miller said.  "I'm sick today. I'm tired of coming up here looking at you.  You look at me like I'm a lunatic.  I'm not a lunatic, I'm a fisherman, I believe in myself."

That belief may be all these fishermen have left to help them navigate through troubled waters.

Shrimpers and fishermen were each allowed to speak for three minutes during the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting.

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