Pass Christian grants temporary relief for struggling seafood industry

Ahead of shrimp season, city leaders have granted some relief to a struggling seafood industry in Pass Christian.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 5:52 PM CDT
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PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) - Ahead of shrimp season, city leaders have granted some relief to a struggling seafood industry in Pass Christian.

This week, the Board of Aldermen voted not to raise the long-term lease payments for the harbor’s commercial fisherman this year, which are contracted to increase by 4% every June.

“This few hundred extra dollars will just help offset something,” Harbor Master Russell Holliman said. “It’s a small amount for the city, but it’s a large amount for these business owners.”

Holliman pushed for the move, saying the industry is in “a major crisis”.

“If you have one good season and then the next season you have a bad one, what we’re seeing is it takes two more good seasons to make up for it,” he said.

Holliman said fisherman are not only having a hard time locating the seafood, but also getting it to the processors: which most, he said, are still stocked with millions of dollars worth of last year’s catch and unable to sell it.

While shrimp may be fleeting, dealers also said they have not had an oyster season in more than five years.

For Darlene Kimball, her tool to unload them has been immobile and rusting as she fights to keep Kimball Seafood afloat after nearly a century in business.

“We used to have a bunch of employees,” she told WLOX. “My grandfather, my grandmother, my dad, all had a good source of people. And, pretty much, it’s just me. I run it by myself. And I don’t know if I’m going to let my little girl take this over because it’s not like it used to. It is kind of dying.”

It’s a similar story for Jeremy Forte with Jerry Forte Seafood; his dad’s business since the early 1970′s.

“My goal was always to try to kind of carry it on,” he said. “But being that things have changed so much, I’m having to get other little side jobs.”

Forte said his biggest struggle is competing with imports: local businesses having their products shipped in at cheaper prices.

“Now is a time more than ever to support your local fisherman and local seafood businesses because you know, we’re facing more and more hardship than ever before,” Forte said.

Fisherman Gerald Pavolini said the industry he has known for about 40 years is now headed in one direction, and it’s not up.

“The fuel prices went up. The shrimp went down, the prices,” he said. “We’ll make it, someway, somehow, I guess.”

With a new shrimp season starting on Monday, fishermen will soon set sail with great hope.

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