In Biloxi on Wednesday I went for a short cruise on a faux shrimp boat. The Sailfish is a tour boat that has been operating since 1955, touring the Mississippi Sound, and was later fitted with a shrimp net and a winch to show tourists how the shrimping industry works.
In the morning, a tour bus stopped at the Small Craft Harbor by the Hard Rock Café where the Sailfish is docked. The tourists filled the boat. But in the afternoon, there were only four of us on the tour, so we got a pretty good overview of the logistics and the economics of the shrimping industry.
The Sailfish stays close to shore in shallow, protected waters where shrimp congregate and the crew drops a net that picks up whatever is swimming near the bottom. On Wednesday, the take was very small. As the winch hauled the net to the surface, seagulls descended, pecking at the flashes of silver scales visible in the green net. But they were tiny fish, two to three inches long. There were a few tiny crabs, as big as a man’s thumb, and one adult blue crab that was clearly annoyed. And one shrimp. Rough weather the day before had apparently driven the shrimp to deeper water.
A crew member picked out various creatures, told us about them, and tossed them back. Everything eventually went back into the water. The Sailfish doesn’t do commercial fishing; it educates tourists about it in a cruise that takes about 70 minutes. It's interesting, something a little different for tourists, and kids will love the crawly things that come up in the net.
It was a pretty day in Biloxi, sunny and in the high 70s, and shrimp or not, it was the perfect day to be out on the water.
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