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Seafood Making A Comeback on Gulf Coast, but Shrimpers Struggling to Earn a Living

By Rhonda Miller | Published 29 Jul 2011 11:51pm | comments
Kathleen Norvell heads into lunch at the White Cap Seafood Restaurant in Gulfport.

It appears seafood is making a comeback on the Gulf Coast more than a year after the oil spill.  That’s the key finding of a study done at the University of Southern Mississippi.  But MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports shrimpers are still having a hard time earning a living.

On the dock behind the Hard Rock casino in Biloxi, fisherman Mark Stewart is preparing his nets to go out shrimping.  Stewart says the shrimp are small and the prices are low.

"We’re not bouncing back, for sure. Pretty much dead in the water is what we are," Stewart said. "If you’re looking for supper, there’s plenty out there. If you’re looking to make money, good luck."

At the Gulf Coast campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, Professor John Lambert conducted a study examining the shrimp supply chain - fishermen, wholesalers, processors, restaurants and consumers.

"It’s remarkable how, with the exception of the shrimpers, most of them have basically recouped, to a significant degree," Lambert said. "But the shrimpers seem to be the ones with the least ability to adapt to a changing situation."

There’s been a change this year at the White Cap restaurant, just across from the beach in Gulfport. Owner Buck Lizana says things are starting to look up.

"People are not asking questions like, 'Is it safe?'  I think people are not as leery as they were last year," Lizana said. "To be honest, business is up 35 to 40 percent, so that ought to tell you the story right there."

Kathleen Norvell of Diamondhead is coming in for lunch. She  has no concerns about the safety of seafood.

"Especially when you come to places you normally eat at, like going to Galatoire's or coming to White Cap. Eating at the high-end restaurants, you’re not going to worry about the seafood they’re serving because it would have come from a reputable dealer," Norvell said.

While diners are ordering more seafood, the study found shrimpers getting low prices at the dock, while the cost of fuel is high. That leaves shrimpers in the most difficult spot when it comes to seafood getting back to normal.





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