How crabby will we get as seafood prices go jumbo from threat of Gulf oil spill?
Wake up and good morning. Florida's vast seafood industry, from the fisherman to the upscale restaurants that depend on the local waters, are bracing for shortages and likely higher prices because of the Gulf oil spill. Here's a round-up from across the Sunshine State.
As today's St. Petersburg Times story notes, Frank Chivas (shown, left), owner of Salt Rock Grill in Pinellas County's Indian Shores and other Tampa Bay area restaurants, has stocked up on 50,000 pounds of shrimp. (Salt Rock's "jumbo coconut crusted shrimp" is currently $16.90.) Chivas fears the price of local seafood is about soar because of the large oil spill in the gulf. (Photo: Stephen J. Coddington, St. Petersburg Times.)
The famous Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach sources its stone crabs in the Florida Keys, but the Miami Herald reports that the 97-year-old restaurant doesn't expect the oil spill will impact its supply of stone crabs because the season ends May 15. Fishermen have already started pulling up their traps. Joe's chief operating officer, Stephen Sawitz, is already concerned about the possible impact on next season. And currently, Joe's biggest challenge will be running out of oysters, which it normally buys from Louisiana or Apalachicola. It's the same concern at Crabby Bill's chief Matt Loder on Indian Rocks Beach in Pinellas, as shown in this WTSP Channel 10 video report.
Already, the Herald story says, some pink shrimp from the Gulf has jumped in price, up about 60 cents from last week, said John Mellaci, owner of New England Fish Market, a fish wholesaler in Jensen Beach.
At Captain Mike's Fresh Fish & Seafood in Davie, a Palm Beach Post story quotes assistant general manager Teri Nielsen saying her crawfish supplier out of Louisiana had already shut down operations and she was trying to find an alternative source for them. If one isn't found, she'll be out when her current supplies run out. She typically stocks crawfish through July 4.
A seafood price shock, of course, is not limited to Florida. The entire nation relies heavily on Gulf water seafood, as evidenced by these stories from Columbus, Ohio, from central Pennsylvania, from Kansas City and from this Bloomberg BusinessWeek story. Many big chains like Orlando's Darden Restaurants rely more heavily on Asian and Latin American markets for their seafood and may find themselves relatively insulated from any potential Gulf disaster.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist