BILOXI — State officials will test brown shrimp for petroleum hydrocarbons ahead of the anticipated opening of the season in June.
William Walker, executive director of the state Department of Marine Resources, was given authority this past week to open the season when test trawls yield 68 shrimp per pound.
Walker said a commercial shrimper will be hired to pull some shrimp for testing.
He says the commercial nets are heavier than those used by the state and would provide a more representative sample of what a shrimper might collect on opening day.
"We’ll have those analyzed. We’ve asked the Health Department and the Department of Environmental Quality to help us determine a standard procedure for analyzing tissue for human consumption," Walker said.
The test for petroleum hydrocarbons in shrimp tissue is a first and is precautionary, he said.
"We think our seafood is just fine, We want to verify that," Walker said. "We don’t have any evidence oil or dispersant getting anywhere close to our Mississippi wildlife or shrimp."
Walker said there is no rush to open shrimp season to beat any possible flow of oil into the state’s waters.
"I don’t see any reason to hurry up and harvest a bunch of small shrimp," he said.
Bill Richardson, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Marine Resources, said test trawls of shrimp were yielding 170 to 180 shrimp per pound.
"There are favorable conditions for shrimp growth," said Richardson.
Mississippi shrimp landings in 2008 were valued at $8.6 million, according to information provided to the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources.