The 2019 Mississippi shrimp season opens tomorrow and for the first time officials say they are seeing a decrease in the number of shrimp.
Biloxi was once known as the seafood capital of the world. Now, local fisherman are struggling to make ends meet. St. Michael’s Fuel and Ice Dock manager Chris Lyons said, “I have been in this industry professionally for over 37 years and I can’t remember anything this bad other than when they shut us down for B.P.”
Thursday marks the opening of the Mississippi shrimp season and experts at the Department of Marine Resources say that the legal count for shrimp is 68 shrimp per pound. Right now, samples are showing 112 shrimp per pound, but they are opening despite these low numbers. Office of Marine Fisheries Deputy Director Rick Burris said, “Typically what we see is a progression each time we sample. We see those shrimp getting larger and larger and we can pretty much predict when we will be to the legal size when we open. This year we are actually seeing it go backwards and we have never seen that before or I have never seen that before.”
Officials say these issues are directly related to the reopening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway. This is the second time the spillway has been opened this year, a first in history. “I think it is obvious that the freshwater is having a huge impact on our fisheries and our marine resources.”
Governor Phil Bryant has been pushing for a federal fisheries disaster declaration due to these issues. This would help fishermen and other industry professionals receive financial aid during these times. “I just hope that it is timely. I just hope it is not something that in five years from now they benefit from because that is not going to pay their bills right now.”