BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi’s shrimp season will open this Thursday, June 20 at 6am, despite samples showing smaller shrimp than typical for opening day. That’s the decision from Tuesday’s Commission on Marine Resources meeting.
It’s not a cause for celebration though. It’s more of a sign of desperation.
Usually, the legal count for shrimp must be 68 shrimp per pound before the season is opened. Right now, samples are showing 112 shrimp per pound, which is much smaller than normal for this time of the year. Experts also report that brown shrimp reproduction is down 90%.
“I don’t think it really matters. I think the situation now is only getting worse, so why don’t we take the best we can? The only chance we have now is to allow our shrimpers to have some chance to have a life this year,” said Joe Spraggins, the director of the Department of Marine Resources.
Despite that, the CMR decided to open the season anyway under an emergency declaration.
One reason is that getting nets in the water may help shrimpers prove the economic hardship they’re facing this year, following the opening of Louisiana’s Bonnet Carre Spillway and the subsequent drop in salinity levels in the Mississippi Sound.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my career. But with all the fresh water intrusion, it’s having a significant impact on our brown shrimp," said deputy fisheries director, Rick Burris.
Mississippi shrimpers have been forced to go elsewhere to make a living, according to shrimper Cary Cannette.
Earlier this month, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant asked the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for a federal fisheries disaster declaration due to the spillway opening. Such a declaration could help all those negatively impacted by the freshwater intrusion, including fishermen and related businesses, obtain financial assistance.
“It’s frustrating when you have to drive six or eight hours just to go to Alabama or Louisiana. Burn all the fuel, all the costs included in doing that and come back and sell the shrimp for the same price you could be getting for what you catch right here in Mississippi,” Cannette said.
“We don’t expect the shrimp season to last too long or the catch to last too long, so then, it’s going to be easy for us to document the loss that these shrimpers are seeing from the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway,” said the director of Commercial Fisherman United, Ryan Bradley.
Governor Bryant also directed the University of Southern Mississippi to begin a thorough examination of the spillway’s effects on the Mississippi Sound.
Recreational and commercial shrimp season north of the Intracoastal Waterway will close at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2020. In areas south of the Intracoastal Waterway and west of the Gulfport Ship Channel, shrimp season will close at 12:01 a.m. on May 1, 2020. Licensed live-bait shrimping is open year-round in designated areas.
For more specific information on the 2019 Mississippi shrimp season, call the Mississippi Shrimp Information Hotline at 866-938-7295 or the MDMR at 228-374-5000.