By Jonathan Brannan| September 7, 2014 at 10:55 PM CDT - Updated July 21 at 12:37 AM
BILOXI, MS (WLOX)
Biloxi's Seafood Festival not only allows people to celebrate a Coast tradition, but it also sheds light on the industry the city was built on.
The festival is just around the corner, but many may already be wondering where the industry currently stands. It has been a victim to hard times just like any other industry, but is it recovering as quickly?
"It gives a lot of people work, keeps a lot of people fed," said Brian Miller.
Miller and his wife, Dorothy, are from Southaven, MS. The seafood industry keeps them coming back for more. So, is it thriving or just getting by?
"Everybody's happy, but they're doing good," said shrimper Jimbo.
Jimbo has been selling fresh shrimp off his boat for three years. This year, he's calling the catches and sales normal. Not too many, but just enough to get by.
"I hope more people come. Like, from up north. Alabama, Jackson," said Jimbo.
Jimbo says his clientele also come from New Orleans, but his customers usually only buy the best of his catch. After that, he sells what's left at a cheaper price to places like St. Michael's Ice House in Biloxi. Chris Lyons oversees the day-to-day business of the ice house.
"You know, we're having what I call a typical and average season," said Lyons.
Lyons saw the season start out strong, but it has slowed down a good bit since. As a shrimp dealer, the prices Lyons pays to shrimpers are based on the demand.
Right now, he's seeing shrimp at their highest worth in around 30 years.
"That's mainly because of the imports. The lack of imports, I should say," said Lyons.
In the recent past, imports of shrimp had taken over the industry in our country. The Gulf Coast went from supplying more than 90 percent of the country's shrimp to less than 10 percent. But, that has changed in the last couple of years due to fear of disease and other issues with imports. "Next thing you know, there's no imports in our country, and everybody's fighting to get our local shrimp," said Lyons.
Now, he can raise his prices, but that could change any day once other countries figure out how to regulate their shrimp production to make it more appealing to the U.S. again. Even when that time comes, Lyons thinks events like the seafood festival will still be an important part of the Coast's heritage.
"I think that, regardless of what's going on, every year they're going to try to carry on that tradition and just hope for the best," said Lyons.
The 33rd annual Biloxi Seafood Festival is next weekend at the Point Cadet Plaza.