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To Avoid Oil, Mississippi Opens Shrimp Season Early

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To Avoid Oil, Mississippi Opens Shrimp Season Early

Business

To Avoid Oil, Mississippi Opens Shrimp Season Early

To Avoid Oil, Mississippi Opens Shrimp Season Early

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With the drifting oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico closing in, Mississippi opened its shrimping season 10 days early to get as big a catch as possible. Fishermen headed out at first light Thursday and stayed out to maximize their catch before the waters are closed.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Along the Gulf of Mexico, shrimpers in Mississippi have opened their season amid worries that the oil slick could soon shut them down.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Carl Gibson reports.

Mr. DANIEL HILLHOUSE (Shrimper): Somebody help and get these coolers.

CARL GIBSON: Daniel Hillhouse is carrying coolers of freshly caught shrimp off the dock of the Double W's(ph) at the harbor in Pas Christian, Mississippi. His boat was one of 67 that left at first light to catch what they could from waters that haven't yet been closed off by the Coast Guard. But Hillhouse says the prime shrimping waters are out of bounds and wants BP to reimburse him.

Mr. HILLHOUSE: I spent a lot of money on this boat this year. I've got about $25 grand tied up in it right now.

GIBSON: Once a key part of the Mississippi economy, shrimping has been a dwindling business since Hurricane Katrina devastated the shores five years ago.

Richard Gollott, who co-owns the Golden Gulf Coast Seafood Packing Company, used to have 100 boats working for him before Katrina. Now he's down to 24 boats and isn't hopeful about this season's catch.

Mr. RICHARD GOLLOTT (Co-owner, Golden Gulf Coast Seafood Packing Company): The places these boats normally fish this time of the year is right where the oil spill is, right on the inside of Chandelier, Breton Sound. The amount of shrimp that we unloaded and processed is down 90 percent compared to last year and the year before that.

GIBSON: Shrimpers in Mississippi are still having better luck than Alabama shrimpers, whose season has yet to open because of the oil slick's proximity.

For NPR News, I'm Carl Gibson in Bay, St. Louis.

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