I decided to break this video out from the interviews I did in the earlier post in order to draw attention to a couple of points. First, as the video of the Biloxi Shrimping Trip tour shows, the bottom of the Gulf in this area does not contain tar balls or any other kind of contaminant.  The second point is the diversity of the seafood that one finds in the region.

This particular demonstration is just that — a shrimping trawl on a very small scale.  Even a 15-minute drag with a small net captures a large amount of seafood, however, and a few things that turn out to be somewhat dangerous.  This haul had two stingrays, but it’s not unusual for regular shrimping trawlers who go farther out to pick up sharks, which can make a deck lively for a few minutes.

According to Mike Moore, who narrated and helped demonstrate the process of shrimping, sharks and stingrays are among the least of the worries for shrimpers these days.  Many of them bought boats that may run between one to two million dollars, and who took out large notes over the last few years without realizing what impact a catastrophe like the Gulf oil spill might have on consumer psychology.  Even without that, the shrimpers are having to push the envelope on shrimping season and have become much more apt to keep moving along the coast to follow the warm weather and extend their efforts to a year-round cycle, where in past years they would tend to stay put in one area and take the winter off.

The water here is dark, and more than one person to whom I spoke over the last couple of years went out of their way to insist that this is normal and has nothing to do with the oil spill.  The silt in this area is dark-gray, which is why the sand turns white when bleached by the sun.  This is one reason why the Gulf is so rich in seafood; as Bob Mahoney told us, “There’s a lot of lovin’ going on in the mud.”  They like to say that the water is the color of gumbo.  It’s actually reminiscent of the California coast, where the Pacific is normally murky, so it didn’t strike me as odd at all.

In the beginning of the video, you’ll see some commercial trawlers.  Many of these are owned and operated by Vietnamese shrimpers, who came to the area to ply their traditional trade in the US.  Mike Jones, our tour guide from the Mississippi Development Authority, said that every immigrant wave has had its try at the Gulf seafood trade, and that the Vietnamese-Americans are the latest in a long tradition in the Biloxi-Gulfport area.  Normally the shrimp you see being weighed in this clip would be sold off the back of the boats for about $3 a pound, but the price was $4 a pound yesterday as the season is coming to an end.  These were very large shrimp, great for cooking or grilling.

One last note: the man who pulls in the nets in this clip is the same man who greeted us by singing and playing his 12-string guitar as shown in the clip; as it turns out, he only sings his own songs, and has a CD coming out soon.