Opening of shrimp season sees continued decline of participation
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Monday marked the opening of shrimp season in South Mississippi. However, the once widely celebrated occasion is a shell of its former glory, and local shrimpers struggle to make ends meet.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources confirmed with WLOX News, only 52 vessels left the harbor at 6 a.m. when shrimp season officially started. Compared to two decades ago, that number is very small. DMR reports only 244 commercial shrimping licenses were issued for this season.
This is a breakdown of what that number looked like in previous years:
|YEAR||# OF SHRIMPING LICENSES|
“The fisheries are a lot different than what it was 20 years ago,” said Jason Saucier, DMR’s Shrimp & Crab Bureau director. “If you talk to shrimpers, opening day we saw a large number of boats and we just don’t see that today. And a lot of that has to do with economics. It’s not as profitable as it used to be, unfortunately.”
Local shrimpers echo the report of small shrimp caught in the Mississippi Sound.
Vam Pham is captain of the ‘Lucky One’ and has shrimped in South Mississippi since he immigrated from Vietnam to the United States 30 years ago. He has witnessed the decline of the industry that he relies on to put food on the table for his family.
“Hard to survive in shrimping right now because the diesel is high and the shrimp is cheap,” he said. “I don’t know how we survive in the future.”
Meanwhile, DMR patrol boats joined shrimpers on the Sound. Captain Michael Strickland and his crew, Senior Master Sergeant Jase Whittington and Corporal Nick McDaniel, performed safety and equipment inspections all morning. It is a job that must be performed quickly, because for shrimpers, time is money.
“It’s kind of a fine line. You want to inspect all the vessels that are out here but you have to understand those guys are trying ot make a living,” said Capt. Strickland. “Every time they’re out of the water and we’re doing out job, it takes time out of their day and money out of their pockets.”
The DMR crew inspected Biloxi native Paul Bodin’s boat, ‘Bayout Cat.’ On board were Bodin’s six grandchildren.
“I’m taking these grandkids out here and showing them what shrimping is all about,” he told WLOX News. “As a kid, I grew up shrimping on shrimp boats with my granddad. Me and my wife when we first got married, we would go shrimping every opening. We got grandkids, got away from it. Now they’re old enough they want to see what it’s all about. I’m blessed with ‘em.”
As Bodin watched the excitement from his grandchildren as they sorted through the catfish and shrimp, he said he is confident that the shrimp industry is not dying any time soon.
“My grandkids got the fever now, can’t get rid of it. After 40 years, I still have the fever,” he said.
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