As his son hauls in an oyster dredge from the floor of Barataria Bay, lifelong oyster harvester Mitch Jurisich, normally an optimistic man, is worried that the size of the catch is shrinking.
“I’m concerned, very concerned,” Jurisich worries. “Last year was about the last year of harvesting pre-BP oysters. Now, we’re looking post-BP and now looks not good,” Jurisich explains.
Nathan Jurisich, Mitch’s son is the fourth generation oysterman. He says they are harvesting far fewer oysters. “Last year at this time, I was bringing in 200-250 sacks a day. Now we’re 100-150, sometimes less,” Nathan says.
There could be multiple causes. But, they are finding many dead oysters, especially baby oysters.
“There’s nothing live on this shell,” Mitch says as he inspects the outside of an oyster shell. “There should be, this is dead. It’s very upsetting because that’s the future.”
Restaurant owners are taking notice. Chef Scott Craig of Katie’s Restaurant says, “They’re obviously scarce because the price has gone up.” Chef Craig explains as a result prices of oysters at the restaurant have had to go up a little bit.
“The cost of oysters are actually as much as double,” Al Sunseri of P&J Oysters says. At P&J Oysters, the supply is so low the cooler is nearly empty. Sunseri explains the supply is down about halfway.
Right now, they are getting ready for the Oyster Festival, May 31st and June 1st. It is the fifth festival. Ironically the first one was in 2010. But, this year they say they will have plenty of oysters.
“Probably go through about 80,000 oysters,” Sunseri says, “But, truly an event that everyone should enjoy – the food, the music in that one spot. It’s got to be the best brunch in the world.”