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State looking for disaster declaration for shrimping industry

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — The state will ask the U.S. Department of Commerce to issue a fisheries disaster declaration for Mississippi’s shrimp industry.

Dale Diaz, director of marine fisheries for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, tells the Mississippi Press the request would be filed within a week.

The declaration is the first step in possibly gaining federal relief funds. Diaz said if a declaration is made, the state would have to go to Congress for an appropriation for disaster relief.

Diaz said a failure declaration request for oysters and crab was made in August.

The 2011 fishing season was affected by the release of freshwater from the flooded Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carre Spillway into the Mississippi Sound from May through June.

The freshwater incursion followed the 2010 season, when fishing largely shutdown in the northern Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill from April to July.

Based on preliminary information, the inshore shrimp landings from state waters reached the threshold for a declaration for the July through December season, Diaz said.

“We have to show a loss of over 35 percent to even be considered for a fishery failure,” he said. “What teased out of the data is from July through November it looks like our inshore fishery met that criteria at about a 37 percent decrease.”

Officials said preparation of the request is waiting on final November and December numbers from NOAA.

“During the fall, we had lots of comments from shrimpers about low catches,” Diaz said. “We have been monitoring catches each month. Total landings by month are not low enough to meet the federal criteria.

“However, we just received preliminary data that separates inshore landings from offshore landings and the preliminary data shows that inshore reduction of landing are slightly above the needed criteria for NOAA to consider a request.”

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