BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - All eyes are on the Department of Marine Resources as the agency considers when to open the 2018 shrimp season.
Conditions have to be right before shrimpers head out to drop their nets. The Gulf Coast shrimp fleet is in harbor waiting for the start of the 2018 shrimp season.
The decision to announce an opening date rests with the Department of Marine Resources. By law, scientists with DMR must wait until shrimp reach a size of 68 count, or 68 shrimp per pound. Salinity and water temperature are the primary factors.
This weekend's forecast of heavy rain could make a difference.
"We're getting close to the end. We started sampling back in April and we've been collecting data. We're going to monitor the storm over the weekend. If we get an influx of fresh water it could push the brown shrimp out and drop the count. We'll watch the storm and sample after that," said Rick Burris, Director of the Shrimp and Crab Bureau.
Shrimpers are getting all of their nets and equipment ready. Historically, dating back to 1975, shrimp season has opened as early as May 25 and as late as June 25. Over that period, the average is June 10.
Shrimpers go into every season with cautious optimism because a lot of different things are at play. Some shrimpers say the price for shrimp is low and the cost of fuel is going up. That is a bad combination.
"I just came back from Grand Isle. The price for diesel was $2.55. Shrimp prices were 30 cents per pound. You got to catch a bunch of shrimp just to pay for the fuel," according to shrimper Jack Hollemon.
While waiting for Mississippi waters to open, the shrimpers will be able to take advantage of conditions in neighboring states. "Alabama will open on June first, as they do every year. Louisiana opens at the state line on May 29 so that gives our guys a couple of places to go and work until we open," Burris said.