Oil Spill Puts the Pinch on Seafood Supply; Platter Service on Hold
By Darragh Doiron, The Port Arthur News, TexasJerry Fitzgerald said plenty of people need to go on a diet. He just wasn't planning to start the day he went to lunch at Sartin's Seafood.Instead of the all-he-could-eat platter service, he made do with a "one time" platter, thanks to the Nederland restaurant's new policy. Platter service is on hold, because of concerns of how the April oil spill will affect Gulf of Mexico seafood.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it is closing nearly 46,000 square miles, or about 19 percent of federal waters, to fishing, an Associated Press story reported. That's up from the 7 percent of the Gulf that's been closed since shortly after an offshore oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Rig operator BP PLC estimates that the blown-out well has leaked more than 5 million gallons.The expanded ban covers an area that starts near the Louisiana coast and moves southeast in a diagonal. From Mississippi to Pensacola, the ban starts about 30 miles offshore, the story continued.At Sartin's, owner Kim Tucker placed table cards announcing the hold on platter service, because the spill has increased her cost on seafood by 20 percent. Tucker said she realized customers have a budget, too, and did not want to pass on that cost to them. Before, about 100 people a day would partake of the lunch platter service.The menu now includes lunch special mini baskets of seafood and also reminds diners of Texas-sized chicken fried steak. "Pray for the Gulf" is the final line on the table card.Jeffery Lewis and Daniel Charlot, part of the St. James Catholic Church staff meeting for lunch, managed to get their fill of foods that lived in the gulf, then ended up fried on their plates. Joy Celyn of Beaumont, another diner, said the hold on platter service did not affect her choice of her "usual" seafood request a Sartin's.Oysters are the concern at Floyd's Seafood in Beaumont. General manager Paul Knobloch said he's a fan of oysters on the half shell, as are his customers, but the bivalves are closed."At this point in time our supply, as far as oysters are concerned, is kind of up in the air. We're not really sure what is going to happen," Knoblock said. "We're not serving them. People are asking and wanting to know, but it's still indefinite."The restaurant ran out of fresh oysters at the beginning of May and won't serve frozen, he said. Knoblock said their supply of other seafood is "pretty steady."Trudy Verdine, owner of Fisherman's Reef, a Beaumont-based shrimp packing and processing plant, said the spill seems to be bringing her more business."Business has picked up. More people are eating seafood. It's like, people don't think there's going to be any more seafood," she said.Her theory is that now that the fishing crisis is in the news, people are simply thinking about seafood and craving it. Prices from her dock suppliers have gone up by a large percentage, too, but she said she's working to make sure her customers are supplied.Verdine said she hasn't seen prices on one size of shrimp this high in about 20 years."Oysters went up like crazy. I can't even get them. We had some frozen put back. It's almost like rationing, you know," she said.Her business delivers to about 150 restaurants, and Verdine said she cracking down on the hoarding mentality."If everyone doesn't panic, we can ride this out," Verdine said. "I'm gonna keep you in shrimp. I'm concerned, but I'm a very positive person."Restaurant contacts may be complaining about the prices, and many in the business have never been threatened by an oil spill, Verdine said she reminds them that hurricanes cause the same kind of panic and cost increases."There's still a lot of gulf out there, and there's still a lot of shrimp out there," she said.-----To see more of The Port Arthur News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.panews.com.Copyright (c) 2010, The Port Arthur News, TexasDistributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.For reprints, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.BP, 5051,A service of YellowBrix, Inc.