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Weather Benefits Shrimp Season
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Weather that had most other farmers praying for rain has had a positive effect on Mississippi's shrimp harvest.
"We've had good growing conditions Gulfwide," said Dave Burrage, marine resources specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Two months of dry weather have resulted in increased salinity and temperatures -- the higher, the better."
Biloxi, which accounts for 80 percent of the state's processing capabilities, handled more than 1.5 million pounds of heads-on shrimp from June 4 through 24, compared to just over 1.3 million pounds during that period in 1997. The month of May doubled the previous May's harvest.
Burrage said on an average year, the Gulf of Mexico produces about 130 million pounds of heads-off shrimp, which is nearly 85 percent of the total domestic production. The total U.S. production accounts for only 30 percent of the nation's consumption.
"Production is up worldwide, and an increasing percentage of that is farm raised," Burrage said. "Ecuador and Thailand are the main countries producing farm-raised shrimp."
A shortage of larger shrimp has helped those prices, but smaller shrimp are not bringing great prices at the dock. Burrage said as the season continues, shrimpers will be able to harvest a greater percentage of large shrimp.
Average factory prices at the dock are $1.40 per pound for 40-count size (medium) shrimp, but consumers can expect to pay nearly $5 for those size headless shrimp at the grocery. Prices for medium shrimp were better last year because of the scarcity of shrimp early in the season.
In 1997, cooler water temperatures, lower food supplies and low salinity were among the factors that caused basically two shrimp seasons. Shrimpers eventually harvested an average crop of 7.7 million pounds of shrimp (headless) from Mississippi waters.
Mississippi has sold about 1,200 licenses for shrimpers this year. While there has been an overall reduction in the Gulf fleet, the Mississippi fleet has held steady despite the loss of support industries along the Coast. Consumer demand in the last decade has improved.
A percentage of the Mississippi fleet works Gulfwide and will be moving on to Texas waters by the middle of July.