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Jul 6, 2012 9:04 AM by AP

Brown shrimp to be abundant this year

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi's brown shrimp season opened May 30, one of the earliest openings on record, when sampling confirmed shrimp had reached a size of 68 count per pound, the state requirement.

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources biologist Bill Richardson tells The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/NsmyBN ) the first two weeks of the season brought in about 2 million pounds.

"We're getting good reports ... bigger shrimp," Richardson said.

He called it the best brown shrimp season for Mississippi since Hurricane Katrina. He said it wouldn't be considered a banner year.

"It's looking like we'll have a decent year in Mississippi," he said, "a little above average."

Marine scientists are predicting an above-average season for the commercial harvest of brown shrimp in the western Gulf of Mexico. They make an annual prediction of brown shrimp catches based on monitoring juvenile populations, growth estimates and environmental indicators.

By their estimate, the harvest in the western Gulf will be 59.2 million pounds, which is above the historical 50-year average of 56.5 million pounds.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said Thursday the prediction covers July 2012 through June 2013 for state and federal waters off Louisiana and federal waters off Texas. The prediction is a shrimp catch of 31.8 million pounds this season from just west of the Mississippi River to the Texas-Louisiana line. In Texas, the catch is predicted to be 27.4 million pounds.

About 68 percent of shrimp harvested in the U.S. comes from the Gulf, especially Texas and Louisiana. In 2010, the domestic shrimp harvest brought in $414 million, NOAA said.

Young brown shrimp begin entering estuaries in Texas and western Louisiana in mid-February and continue through July. NOAA said this year, three environmental indicators - warm air temperatures, more saline water in marshes and strong southerly winds that sustain tidal height - helped the nursery area, allowing for greater distribution of juvenile brown shrimp within estuaries.

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