Oil Spill Affecting Pricing, Availabilty of Seafood Locally

By Elizabeth Kramer

The oil that has spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico since April’s spill is now impacting local availability and pricing of some seafood. It comes after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has closed about 32 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico to fishing. And seafood suppliers and distributors are starting to feel it.

Ken Berry is president of Bluefin Seafoods, Louisville’s largest seafood distributor to area restaurants. He says he doesn’t get his fish from there, but he’s seen supplies of oysters dwindle.

“We do supply oysters and it’s been pretty dramatic,” Berry says. “We’ve had one oyster supplier go out of business and another has got oysters from approved beds spottily, whereas they used to have them all the time.”

He says some restaurant owners and mangers have shown concern.

“They’re not real happy about the oyster price,” Berry says, “but that’s a fairly limited market, especially during the summer when we don’t have a lot of demand for the oysters.”

Berry also says he’s also seen prices for shrimp from the Gulf increase and he thinks there will be further ramifications.

“We’ve had a lot of questions about it and we’re seeing shrimp prices increase 10 percent, 15 percent so far,” he says. “And the oysters are just going to have to come off some menus or they’re going to have to go to an East Coast oyster.”

Kroger put out a statement saying that is has stores with a small amount of oysters and shrimp from the region and that its store prices for these items haven’t increased.

The Gulf states provide 20 percent of seafood consumed by Americans and 75 percent of oysters they eat. Only 7 percent of shrimp eaten by Americans come from there.