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Gulf shrimp industry showing improvement
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Fewer shrimp boats are working the waters off the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but the industry is showing signs of recovery from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
“About 300 boats were counted in Mississippi waters the morning of June 6, the official opening date of the state's shrimp season,” said David Burrage, professor of marine resources with the Mississippi State University Extenison Service in Biloxi. “This is about the same number of boats counted last year, but still less than one-third the number before Katrina hit in 2005.”
While few boats were destroyed by the storm, damage to ice plants, docks and other facilities sent many Mississippi boats to ports in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Florida. Soaring insurance rates and fuel costs and low prices last season also put some Mississippi boat owners out of business.
Fuel and insurance costs are still problems, but Burrage said there is some good news for the industry this season.
“Compared to this time last year, the shrimp catch and prices are up,” he said. “During the first week of the season, landings were more than 1 million pounds, which was about half of the catch for the entire month of June last year.”
Early-season wholesale shrimp prices on the Mississippi coast averaged $1.15 a pound, compared to just 95 cents last year, Burrage said.
Sandra Bosarge, who co-owns Bosarge Boats Inc. in Pascagoula, said while the shrimp industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is still struggling, there are signs of improvement.
“Our boats are not catching an impressive amount of shrimp, but so far it has been adequate, and it is encouraging that prices are more stable than they were this time last year,” she said.