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Shrimp harvest costs counteract price gains
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The price of shrimp is up this season, but so is the cost of getting Mississippi's shrimp harvest to market.
The Mississippi harvest began June 17, with early-season wholesale prices up from 10 cents to $2 a pound, depending on size, said David Burrage, professor of marine resources with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Biloxi.
“This year's early-season wholesale prices for small shrimp are about $1.25 to $1.40 per pound, up from $1.10 to $1.15 when the season opened last year,” Burrage said. “The biggest price difference is for the larger shrimp. Last year, the big shrimp were bringing about $3.50 to $4 a pound. This year, they are $5 to $6 a pound.”
The cost of operating shrimp boats, however, also has increased because of soaring diesel fuel prices.
“The boats can use up to 30 gallons of diesel an hour when dragging the heavy nets used in harvesting shrimp,” Burrage said. “With diesel prices topping $4.50 a gallon, that equals a cost of almost $140 an hour just for fuel.”
It is also taking more fuel for boats to get to good locations.
“An increase in the amount of fresh water coming into the gulf from the Pearl River and other rivers and streams has pushed most of the harvest-size shrimp out of the area north of the Intercoastal Waterway,” Burrage said. “As a result, the Department of Marine Resources has closed the harvest in that area.”
Good numbers of the larger shrimp are being harvested several miles into the gulf, but some small boats that work close to shore are struggling because of small catches and higher operating costs, said Steve Bosarge, president of Bosarge Boats of Pascagoula.
“The larger shrimp have moved out into the gulf,” he said. “We've been working about 22 miles offshore and harvesting a good number of 26- to 30-to-the-pound shrimp. Operators of some of the small boats working closer to shore are stopping and going back to port because they are having a hard time harvesting enough to cover the cost of fuel.”