BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The start of shrimp season in Mississippi is about two weeks away. Tuesday, the Commission on Marine Resources heard an update about expectations for the 2013 season.
CMR commissioners listened as Traci Floyd outlined early indicators that may help predict the success of the 2013 season.
This time of year, the focus is on the growth of shrimp. That means paying attention to things like salinity, rainfall and water temperature.
"We are seeing the growth we'd expect this time of year, despite those heavy rains. Although it may affect our numbers in the long run, it's early to tell," said Floyd.
She told the commission most factors indicate at least an average shrimp season upcoming, including opening day.
"I think it will be the typical date. It's early to tell, but we typically open the first week in June. Many more samples to do before then, but shrimp growth is typical," she explained.
Floyd told commissioners the DMR is now taking shrimp samples twice a week. The season can't open until those shrimp reach the legal size limit of 68 count per pound. One recent trawl found a count of 119 shrimp.
Speaking of numbers, the number of shrimpers has declined dramatically over the past decade. She produced a chart showing the number of shrimp boats working the waters on opening day. Just 210 boats on last year's opening, less than one fourth the number just ten years ago.
"Of course, the fishery has faced many hardships: High fuel costs, competition from cheap imports and loss of infrastructure due to disaster that has decreased our fishermen's access to fuel, ice and decent docking facilities," Floyd explained.
Despite the decline in fishermen, shrimp remains a valuable fishery in Mississippi. Last year's catch of 13 million pounds was valued at more than $24 million.
Traci Floyd told commissioners an MSU study says the shrimp industry in Mississippi helps support more than two thousand jobs. It also provides some $44 million in annual income.