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Total Kill of Oysters Expected, Shrimp Threatened, As Fresh Water Pours In From Flooding Mississippi

By Rhonda Miller | Published 17 May 2011 04:09pm | comments
At Back Bay harbor in Biloxi, Tommy Cao, left, and crew prepare Cao's boat for the opening of shrimp season.

Mississippi is expected to lose all of its oysters because of fresh water pouring down through the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports floodwaters from the Mississippi River are also putting a big question mark on shrimp season, which is due to open soon.

At the dock in Biloxi’s Back Bay, Tommy Cao is preparing his boat, the Queen Elizabeth I, for shrimp season.

"Well, I’m moving my boat back, so I can put my outriggers back on," said Cao.

Shrimp season usually opens in early June and Cao isn’t sure what to expect.

"Last year was the oil spill," said Cao. "The year before we did pretty good."

"Things are looking very good this year." said Traci Floyd, director of the Shrimp Bureau for the state Department of Marine Resources. "So far conditions have been conducive to shrimp growth. We’ve had very warm waters."

The potential threat is fresh water being diverted from the flooding Mississippi River into the Mississippi Sound. Floyd said this season's crop of shrimp could be affected.

"Those shrimp that are large enough will move out of the way. We do anticipate there are some smaller, post-larval shrimp still around that would not get out of the way of the fresh water and could be lost," Floyd said.

But the impact on Mississippi’s oyster reefs is more certain, said Scott Gordon, director of the state’s Shellfish Bureau.

"Yes, all of the oysters in the western Mississippi Sound will probably be killed due to the amount of fresh water we’re expecting," Gordon said.

Oysters take one-and-a-half to two years to mature," Gordon said. "With the oysters, it looks like we're going to be knocked back several years until we can get those reefs rebuilt."

So oystermen on the Mississippi Gulf Coast may have to find another way to earn a living for few years.


At Back Bay harbor in Biloxi, Tommy Cao, left, and crew prepare Cao's boat for the opening of shrimp season.



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