Restaurants still have oysters, but for how long?

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by Doug Mouton / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 9:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 12 at 8:46 AM

NEW ORLEANS - Tuesday, Louisiana closed more of its oyster areas, leaving this summer's oyster supply very much in question.

"Everyday this thing's not capped off, the potential for the longterm issues to be out there become greater and greater," Acme Oyster House Chief Operating Officer Lucien Gunter said.
  
For now, Acme is shucking and serving raw oysters, but their supply is running out.

The supply is also running out at the P&J Oyster Company in the French Quarter.

"This will be enough to shuck one day," P&J owner Al Sunseri said as he looked at the sacks of oysters in his freezer.

P&J supplies oysters to roughly 100 restaurants around the New Orleans area. 

Sunseri said Tuesday, he has enough oysters in stock to fill his orders this week.

He said, he expects enough oysters to come in to make next week's orders too, but after that, he doesn't know.

Many of the prime oyster harvesting areas are now closed.

"At this point, there hasn't been any oil that's entered the oyster growing areas as far as I know," Sunseri added. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals agreed, but that could change anytime as the oil spill continues to grow and move.

The biggest positive, according to industry leaders, is how the people of Louisiana have responded.

"Customers have been phenomenal," Gunter said, "They’ve been coming out in support of the seafood industry as a whole."

"Anytime there's a fear of loss, people are going to go out and try to get more of it before they can't get it," said Ewell Smith, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

Smith said that after Katrina it took two years for people around the country to trust Louisiana seafood again. This disaster, according to Smith, could be worse.

"It could be three to five years to get the consumer confidence around the nation to understand that our seafood is safe, and that's going to be our longterm challenge," Smith added.

According to Gunter, Acme has enough oysters to last the rest of this week.  Beyond that, they're not sure, because Gunter said, if Acme can't get Louisiana oysters, rather than bringing in an inferior outside product, they may simply not serve raw oysters. "If we can't get the product we're looking for," Gunter added, "you hate to say it, but the Raw Bar would go unoccupied for a little while."

Gunter wants customers to know, if Acme is selling raw oysters, you can trust that they're safe. "The marquee out front says, 'Had your back since 1910.' You don't get to be a hundred year old organization by not doing things the right way," Gunter said.

Smith, Gunter and Sunseri all said, people in Louisiana understand that.  Smith's job after the oil spill crisis is over, will be to convince the rest of the country.
 

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