Shrimp prices rise

The Miss Janet was docked in Morgan City Thursday to sell shrimp to retail customers.
(The Daily Review Photos by Zachary Fitzgerald)

Shrimper Kermit Duck talks about the shrimp season on the Morgan City waterfront.
(The Daily Review Photos by Zachary Fitzgerald)

Area shrimpers have seen the highest prices in about 10 to 15 years to start the 2014 season that began May 26.
Kermit Duck, 39, of Stephensville, is a full-time shrimper and said though the pounds of shrimp he has caught is down, the price is the strongest it has been in about 10 to 15 years. For white shrimp of 15- to 20-count per pound, shrimpers can get $4.25 per pound wholesale, Duck said. In 2006, shrimpers were getting $1.40 per pound, he said Thursday.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife Fisheries Marine Biologist Martin Bourgeois said, “One has to go back to probably the year 2000 to see prices that we’re seeing today.”
Foreign shrimp production has been negatively affected by a disease called early mortality syndrome, Bourgeois said. That disease has curtailed the amount of imports, thus driving up the price of domestic shrimp, he said.
“The world is hungry for shrimp, particularly the United States, because shrimp has become the No. 1 most consumed seafood product,” Bourgeois said.
The domestic shrimp production is not able to supply all of the demand, he said. People in the U.S. consume more than 1 billion pounds of shrimp, but only produce about 300 million pounds of shrimp, Bourgeois said.
In 2013, 10- to 15-count per pound shrimp were $2.80 per pound, which is now $4.85, he said. For 40- to 50-count per pound shrimp, the 2013 price was $1.35 while the price is $2.60 today, he said.
Shrimpers at the Morgan City dock are charging roughly $5 for the 15- to 20-count per pound shrimp, Duck said. Duck, who normally sells his shrimp retail at the Morgan City dock, has not done that so far this season because the wholesale price is high, he said.
Therefore, he does not have to lose a few days trying to sell shrimp retail, which would prevent him catching more shrimp and increasing his profit margin, he said. If the price stays high, Duck probably will not sell retail this season, he said.
There are only a few shrimpers left in the area who shrimp full-time, he said.
Duck has been catching white shrimp so far this season, but the brown shrimp are starting to show up, he said. The white shrimp will soon go away because the two species do not mix, Duck said.
The season lasts until state biologists determine the juvenile white shrimp start showing up, Duck said. “Wildlife and Fisheries has the power to shut the season down anytime they want,” Duck said. The regulations allow what may be 500 pounds of baby shrimp to turn into 10,000 pounds of shrimp within a couple months, Duck said.
Usually, state biologists will close the season around mid-July and then open the season back up towards the latter part of August, Duck said. “That’s inside waters. The Gulf stays open,” Duck said.
Duck has been shrimping full-time for more than 20 years and goes wherever he can catch shrimp along the Gulf Coast, he said.
The shrimp population appears to be starting to come back this year after the 2010 BP oil spill hampered the shrimp harvest the previous few years, he said.
“Before the oil spill, you go out three days and you’re averaging 4,500 pounds, 5,000 pounds, 6,000 pounds to where since the oil spill you’ve got to stay five or six days for 4,000 pounds sometimes 3,500 pounds since they’re not as thick as they used to be,” Duck said.
Duck normally stays out shrimping until he fills his boat whether that takes three days or six days, he said.
“The majority of the industry is, I hate to say it, Houma on east when it comes to shrimping where, at one time, this place (Morgan City) used to be the place,” Duck said. Patterson used to be home to a shrimp processing plant, Duck said.

By ZACHARY FITZGERALD zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

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