Seafood business will be greatly impacted by oil spill

April 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Wildlife rescue crews have their first patient now. The Northern Garret bird was discovered in open water covered in oil.

It's one of 400 species of wildlife threatened along the Gulf Coast -- home to 40 percent of the nation's wetlands. The Louisiana seafood and shrimp industries are bracing for disaster and the oil spill is expected to impact the Bay Area seafood market.

A load of freshly boiled crawfish just arrived from Louisiana on Thursday and it may be the last for the foreseeable future. That's unwelcome news for Bay Area foodies, restaurants, and fish markets and even worse news for Louisiana's $1.8 billion fishing industry, second only to Alaska.

"Louisiana seafood is one of the best seafoods in the world, in my opinion. It's really going to mess with everything," says Edwin Caba, a Creola Bistro chef-owner.

Eighty percent of the seafood American eat is imported, mostly from Mexico and Asia, but it is gulf seafood that consumers like.

"The shrimps are the best in the world. The white, firm, flesh and the taste... there's nothing else like it," says Joey Pucci, from JP Seafood.

Pucci's family has been in the fish business for nearly a century. Losing shrimp, redfish, crawfish and other gulf seafood, he thinks, could cause prices to jump by as much as 25 percent.

"If we do see prices increase, I would think that more would be somebody taking advantage of the situation," says Pucci.

The beneficiaries will be farm raised fish operations in Asia, known for undercutting domestic fish prices by half. Caba will have to turn to those sources out of necessity since most of his menu items featured gulf seafood.

"You can get crawfish from the delta, you can also get redfish coming in now from the Indian Ocean, by Madagascar. In fact, I've got an order coming in next week for that," says Caba.

Of course, true New Orleans' gumbo has to have gulf shrimp. Without it, it won't be the same.

"It's like having a Chinese meal without rice," says customer Art Wong.

So it's a time of sacrifice for gulf shrimp lovers and an economic blow for the gulf fishing industry. The seafood industry is expected to sue to recover some of its losses.


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