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Shrimp landings good this season
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's shrimp season has been on-again, off-again because of rain, but landings to date have been good.
Dave Burrage, Extension professor of marine resources at Mississippi State University's Coastal Research and Extension Center, said Biloxi saw about 1.4 million pounds of shrimp landed the first two weeks of the season. The shrimp season opened June 10, closed June 20, then the western portion reopened June 28.
"We did about the same production for the first two weeks of the season with landings in Biloxi as we did last year," Burrage said. "We had production in some larger size categories that we didn't have last year, which has been good for the fishermen."
Shrimp sizes are determined by how many shrimp are needed to make a pound. This year, most of the shrimp landed are in the classes of 36-40 shrimp per pound or 41-50 per pound. However, some shrimp in the larger 21-25 and 16-20 size classes are being caught.
Larger shrimp bring higher prices, but price is keeping this season from being a success.
Burrage said 36-40 shrimp bring $1.25 a pound this year at the factories, and slightly smaller 41-50 shrimp sell for $1.15. Both sizes sold for about 50 cents more per pound in 2002.
Shrimpers are finding that prices for the larger shrimp are much better if they remove the shrimp's heads before selling them to factories. Size 21-25 tails-only shrimp bring $4.40 a pound at the factory, and the tails-only size 16-20 shrimp sell for $5.25 a pound. Both sizes would bring only about $2 per pound if sold heads-on to the factory.
"At that price, you can land those as tails and get a pretty good premium for taking the time to head them on the boat," Burrage said.
Those fishermen who are able to sell their night's catch off the dock directly to the public can earn about $1 a pound more than if they sold to the factories.
"The day boats are doing well," Burrage said. "They go out at night and shrimp, then sell off the dock in the morning for a premium. Boats that go out and catch 200 to 300 pounds a night can do that, but the larger boats can't and just have to take what the factory gives."
Other than prices being so low, shrimpers are contending with obstructions on the sea floor raised or deposited by Tropical Storm Bill in late June.
The eastern Mississippi Sound remains closed because excess rainfall in June washed juvenile shrimp out of the marshes. Shrimp must be size 68 before they can legally be caught, and the Department of Marine Resources samples daily to determine when the shrimp reach this size.
"Ten days without any rain should be enough time for the young shrimp to grow big enough to harvest. Barring any unforeseen significant rainfall, the entire Sound should be open for shrimping by the middle of July," Burrage said.