Posted on May 12, 2010 at 11:02 PM
WESTWEGO, La. - Fears over seafood prices are now a reality in southeast Louisiana. While certain oyster beds and shrimping zones remain open, growing uncertainty over how much longer they may be have weary fisherman now charging more for their catch.
Trying to balance reasonable prices with fresh finds is now weighing heavy on Louisiana’s seafood industry.
"As of today the prices started going up,” said Faye Taravella, a seafood distributer based in Westwego.
Taravella says fresh shrimp caught off the coast of Louisiana is now costing her about 75 cents more a pound. As the massive oil slick continues to creep up, the financial cost is beginning to trickle down. Fishermen’s' fears in the days after the spill….now have a price tag and seafood distributers like Taravella are suffering from sticker shock.
"The fishermen are wanting top dollar,” said Taravella. “The simple fact is today [the season] is open…tomorrow, they (sic) may be closed. You can't blame them.”
So distributers are paying them, but those additional costs have to come from somewhere and it is customers forced to shell out the difference.
“People looking at the prices are like what are you doing to us,” said seafood distributer April Michel. “We're not doing anything it's just what's happening. Prices are increasing and we can't help it."
And higher prices for distributers mean higher costs for restaurants like Mandina’s in Mid-City.
"Across the board, whether it was oysters, shrimp, fish,” sad Martial Voitier, Mandina’s general manager.
Menu prices haven't changed at the restaurant since they reopened after the storm, but with a different kind of mess now out in the Gulf, it's a possibility.
"I think in the next two weeks, we'll really know what's going to happen,” said Voitier.
In the meantime, some summer seafood favorites could face the chopping block.
“Because the oysters are going to be very expensive,” said Voitier.
Seafood lovers can’t imagine New Orleans dining without a surplus of oysters and shrimp.
[It’s] devastating,” said Doris Sullivan, who dined Wednesday at Mandina’s. “Seafood is part of my life, part of my culture."
Seafood imports are technically an option, but not one locals want to sample.
"I think people here would know the difference and it would effect the cooking,” said Melanie Sullivan, Doris’ daughter. “And what we cook with and that's such a big part of our culture.
One that could soon come at a premium, just ask those who are already paying it.
"I don't like to pass it on," said Taravella. "But I have to.”