History of the State Fishery – MS Shrimp

Mississippi Shrimp Fishery

The shrimp industry has been part of Mississippi since the 19th century, starting as a local market. With the invention of artificial ice and improvements in refrigeration technology, Biloxi, Mississippi became a booming area for seafood harvesting and processing (Nuwer 2006). In 1890, Biloxi was processing 2.5 million pounds of oysters and shrimp. By 1902, close to 10 million pounds of seafood was being processed between 12 canneries. The population of Biloxi grew from 1, 500 to 8, 000 and the once small coastal town became known as “The Seafood Capital of the World” (Nuwer 2006).

Boats known as Biloxi schooners, typically owned by seafood factories, were the predominant vessels used to harvest seafood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As technology advanced, fishermen switched to gasoline powered vessels that could drag heavy nets. With the economic downturn around the World Wars, and as vessels became a bit more affordable, individuals began purchasing their own boats for harvest and selling their catch to the canneries, instead of the canneries owning fleets (Nuwer 2006).

Shrimping continued to be part of Mississippi’s culture through the 20th century. In 1950, 9.5 million pounds of shrimp with a dockside value of $2 million were landed in the state. This number stayed relatively stable through the 1960s and 70s with some annual fluctuation (NOAA OST – Commercial Landings). This time also saw an influx of Vietnamese fishermen fleeing colonialism and wars inVietnam (Bounds 2011).

Through the 1990s and early 2000s landings in Mississippi fluctuated between eight and 18 million pounds of shrimp. Both otter and skimmer trawls are used to harvest in state waters, as well as butterfly nets and cast nets. Increased fuel prices, competition with imports, and anthropogenic and natural disasters have caused the Mississippi shrimp fleet to decrease in size. In 2010, there were a total of 636 commercial residential licenses sold, with the largest portion of licenses being to smaller vessels under 30 feet. In 2013, a total of 380 residential commercial shrimp licenses and 101 nonresident licenses were sold (MDMR – Communications). In 2013, 8.8 million pounds of shrimp were landed in Mississippi worth $22 million (NOAA-OST).


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