A bill that would open part of the Mississippi Sound a month earlier than the traditional June start of shrimping season is headed to Gov. Phil Bryant.
Shrimp season in the Sound south of the Intracoastal Waterway, which essentially divides the Sound, usually closes April 30. North of the Intracoastal Waterway, the season closes Dec. 31.
If Bryant signs SB 2683, which was authored by Sen. Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi, the season in the part of the southern Sound that is east of the Gulfport ship channel could remain open year-round.
Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Jamie Miller said the measure is aimed at helping the smaller shrimp boats that make up the majority of the Mississippi fleet. Those boats can’t go out as far as the larger, steel-hulled boats that can fish the deeper waters of the open Gulf.
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“It’s just another opportunity for those shrimpers who don’t have large boats,” he said.
He said the smallest shrimp are normally found in the northern part of the Sound at that time of year, so the fishery should not be harmed.
“What we did want to protect is the northern part of the Sound,” he said. “That’s where the real nursery is.”
The season would be closed if sampling finds more than 68 shrimp in a pound.
Another bill sent to Bryant would change requirements people from other states must meet to obtain a commercial fishing license in Mississippi.
Miller said neighboring states have begun requiring Mississippians to meet their requirements, such as an apprenticeship required in Louisiana to obtain a commercial license. The bill would require out-of-state people to meet all the requirements of their own state in order to get a Mississippi license.
“It would simply level the playing field,” Miller said. “We’ll require the same of them as they require of us.”