A bill that would open part of the Mississippi Sound for shrimping a month earlier than the traditional June start headed to the desk of Gov. Phil Bryant in mid-March.

Shrimp season in the southern part of the sound typically closes on April 30, and the northern half closes on Dec. 30.

If S.B. 2683 gets the green light and the opening is pushed back to May 1, fishing in the part of the southern sound and east of the Gulfport ship channel would remain open year-round. The measure aims to help smaller shrimp boats that make up the majority of the state fleet and are unable to go out as far as larger, steel-hulled boats that fish the deep waters of the open Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s just another opportunity for those shrimpers who don’t have large boats,” said Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Jamie Miller.

While the bill would give shrimpers more time on certain grounds, it keeps protecting areas in the northern part of the sound where the smallest shrimp are normally found in the spring. That fishery would not be harmed by an extended season.

“What we did want to protect is the northern part of the sound,” said Miller. “That’s where the real nursery is.”

The bill includes a back-up plan if the increased fishing activity begins to affect the stock — the season would close if sampling finds more than 68 shrimp in a pound — to protect the area from overfishing.

Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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