DMR getting close to setting shrimp season opening

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A cold winter, followed by abundant Spring rains, are having an impact on this year's shrimp season in Mississippi. Those conditions slowed the growth of shrimp, which means a later start to the season.

Shrimp season can't open in Mississippi until they reach the legal size of 68 count per pound. And weather conditions dictate the growth of those shrimp. While those heavy Spring rains affected salinity levels, recent DMR sampling shows promise.

"The conditions affected the growth. It's a little bit slow, but the numbers are good and they are growing as we would expect them to. So I'm confident and looking for at least a good to average season," said Traci Floyd, with the Department of Marine Resources.

As shrimpers await the start of the 2014 season here in Mississippi, there's some good news for fishermen. Shrimp prices are high right now, thanks to an early mortality syndrome overseas, which has kept the number of imported shrimp lower than usual.

Shrimpers like David Stewart are certainly happy about recent price trends for shrimp.

"Through the roof. We hope we stay this high," he said, from the deck of his father's shrimp boat, "Southern Pride."

Higher prices for the catch can help pay crew members and offset the cost of fuel and other supplies.

"Prices are high, where we want them at. Making money off of it.  Keep it local around here," said crew member Christian Gasper.

The DMR is taking samples two to three times a week, getting closer to signaling the start of the 2014 season.

"And we measure the growth from day to day and based on that we will analyze it and we will open the season based on when the shrimp reach the legal size which is 68 count per pound," Floyd said.

Last year there were 250 shrimp boats on the water on opening day, the highest number in five years.

The DMR's Traci Floyd says the dockside value of shrimp in Mississippi was about $20 million last year. The overall economic value was $136 million.

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