GULF OF MEXICO — The 2010 Mississippi shrimp season opened at 6 a.m. yesterday in Mississippi territorial waters west of the East Biloxi ship channel to stormy weather and eager shrimpers. The opening was approximately 10 days early.
The Department of Marine Resources’ (DMR) Marine Fisheries staff was on the water conducting interviews and surveying shrimp boats the morning of opening day. A flyover was conducted to determine the number of shrimp boats on the water. The flyover showed 47 boats, but the weather prevented flying west of the Gulfport ship channel. An additional 20 boats were counted off of Long Beach Harbor by the DMR Shrimp and Crab boat. The actual number of shrimp boats is still undetermined due to the weather.
Despite the weather, shrimpers reported they were catching high numbers of 60/70-count brown shrimp, and there were numerous reports of 40/50- and 50/60-count brown shrimp.
“We opened the season early to give our shrimpers the opportunity to work as much as possible, in the event that oil makes its way into the Mississippi Sound,” DMR marine administrator Mike Brainard said. “The storms kept many fishermen away, but overall it looks like it could be a great season.”
Shrimp tissue samples from across the Mississippi Sound were sent to be analyzed prior to the opening, and results showed no detectable levels of hydrocarbons. DMR and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality staff continue to take water and seafood samples regularly and are carefully monitoring the situation in the Gulf.
As of June 3, the number of commercial resident shrimp licenses sold was 446. The number of out-of-state commercial shrimp licenses sold was 102.
The DMR’s Marine Patrol was out in full force starting at 6 p.m. June 2 and worked around the clock to ensure a smooth shrimp season opening. This included 29 officers, three reserve officers and three dispatchers. Marine Patrol officers conducted patrols from 14 patrol boats throughout the Mississippi Sound.
“Compliance rates were excellent,” said Lt. Col. Claude Pittman, assistant chief of the DMR’s Marine Patrol. “Even with the bad weather, (as of 3:30 p.m.) there have been no accidents and we’ve received no calls of boaters in distress.”