Louisiana shrimp season opens amid spill concern
Commercial fishermen can now trawl Louisiana's waters for white shrimp as the season opened on Monday, but questions linger about the effects BP Plc's Gulf of Mexico oil spill will have on the harvest.
Some state waters have been open for brown shrimping since the well ruptured on April 20, but the overall catch has been down from previous years partly because a number of boats are signed up with BP's oil spill clean-up program.
The plump, sweet white shrimp are typically larger than brown shrimp and more desired by chefs. The U.S. government has said that seafood pulled from the areas of the Gulf of Mexico that is open to fishing is safe to eat despite all the oil that gushed into the ocean.
More than a fifth of federal waters in the Gulf remain closed due to fear of oil contaminating the seafood.
"Uncertainty has ruled this whole shrimping season," said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. "Our brand has been tarnished and we have a lot of work to do ahead of us."
Shrimpers are worried about what prices their catch will bring and also what effects the oil spill will have on the shrimp population, Smith said.
Smith said it is a positive for the industry that more waters are opening to fishing, a view shared by others.
"We are hoping for the best," said Errol Voisin, plant manager at Lafitte Frozen Seafood in Lafitte, Louisiana.
Voisin said his plant on Monday was processing domestic shrimp caught in waters off Texas and North Carolina, but noted that some shrimping boats had just set out in waters off Louisiana.
The shrimping industry in Louisiana creates 14,384 jobs and brings in $1.3 billion dollars a year for the state, according to the seafood marketing board.
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