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Small shrimp hold their own in 2001
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Despite weather putting a damper on the shrimp season this year, shrimpers managed to land twice as many pounds of shrimp in the early part of the season than they did last year.
Dave Burrage is a marine resources specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He said despite the early high landings, the season looks to be an average year.
"What we've seen thus far is a typical year," Burrage said. "More total shrimp were landed, but the sizes were smaller than last year and the prices are down."
Shrimp season opened in Mississippi at 6 a.m. June 5. Windy weather kept a lot of the smaller boats in port, but there were still 776 boats out on opening day, a few more than last year. Bad weather from Tropical Storm Allison hindered shrimping efforts the next week.
On June 15, the Department of Marine Resources closed most of the Mississippi Sound to shrimpers. Ten inches of rain in one night from the storm flushed a lot of too small shrimp from their nurseries in the bayous and marshes along the Coast.
"We manage the shrimp grounds based on minimum size, so we closed the Mississippi Sound and it's still closed for shrimping," Burrage said.
Despite these setbacks, large boats shrimping in deeper water landed their first harvest of 1.2 million pounds of heads-on shrimp. During the comparable period last year, just 600,000 pounds of shrimp were landed in Biloxi, but these were larger.
In the first weeks of the 2000 season, shrimpers landed 50,000 pounds of the 21-25 shrimp, a large size that indicates 21 to 25 shrimp make up a pound, and 110,000 pounds of shrimp in the 26-30 size. This year, there were just 7,000 pounds of shrimp in both these size categories.
"We're predominately seeing 36-40 and 41-50 size shrimp this year," Burrage said.
In addition to smaller shrimp being less valuable, overall prices are down from last year. Size 36-40 shrimp, which brought $2.05 a pound at the dock last year, are selling for $1.90 this year.
Burrage said shrimp grow fast in warm weather and typically grow a size category every two weeks. By early July, he predicts average shrimp size will be 26-30.
The 2000 total headless harvest was 9.3 million pounds of shrimp. 1999 had a harvest of 9 million pounds and 1998 saw 10 million pounds of shrimp landed in Mississippi, the highest since 1988. Burrage said recent years' drought conditions helped shrimp harvests.
"The same conditions that are causing the cotton farmers so much heartache are causing the good shrimp seasons," Burrage said. "Without much rain, higher salt water concentrations are found further inland where the young shrimp mature. This gives the shrimp more area to grow in."