Seafood Processors Could Move Plants Inland

It will take more than a welder rebuilding the awning of a cold storage facility to spark a revival of south Mississippi's seafood industry. Brian Gollott owns the storage facility and the processing plant next door that never stood a chance when Katrina started battering the Back Bay.

"Our industry is in turmoil right now," he said.

Because of the destruction in D'Iberville, and at five other seafood plants in Harrison County, Gollott said storm clouds hang over the industry.

"From the boats, from the docking spaces, from the unloading docks, to the fishermen being without work, to processing plants that can't process," he said. "All our industry is in turmoil looking for answers."

Larry Barnett may provide those answers. The Harrison County Development Commission director thinks his agency can assist seafood processors, and their industry.

"I'm ready to see something happen. I'm trying to figure out how to get there," Barnett said.

One possibility is for the HCDC to create a seafood industrial park, one inland location where processors can all build plants, and then have shrimp caught by these vessels trucked up to them. The concept would require the support of Harrison County and all of its cities.

David Staehling represented the city of Biloxi at the HCDC workshop.

"There's never going to be an opportunity like this again," Staehling said.

Brian Gollott is very aware of that. He's in favor of rebuilding his processing plant inland, preferably to a spot shared with others in his industry.

"Everybody thinks we can make this happen. It's good for the coast. And it's good for the seafood industry," Gollott said. "It's just a win, win situation for everybody."

The DMR's rough estimate so far, is that the area lost 40 percent of its fishing boat fleet, and just about all of its processing plants.

The Harrison County Development Commission is coordinating the seafood industry's relocation talks. Wastewater treatment issues, and available sites must both be analyzed before any decisions regarding a seafood industrial park are made. Another meeting on the seafood industry situation will be held in two weeks.