Local business worried with oil slick

Published 10:34 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

As some 200,000 gallons of oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico each day, local seafood vendors are bracing for some possible changes in the market.

“The reports I’m getting is that it will affect seafood prices for a while,” said Barrett Foster who manages the Trojan Fish House and the Campus Deli.

Foster said he gets a lot of shrimp and oysters from the Gulf, and he expects to soon start experiencing the negative impact of the recent oil spill.

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“My food distributors say it’s going to be slim pickings,” he said.

Piggly Wiggly owner Steve Garrett said he was concerned as well.

“So far the government expects to see price increases, than outages,” Garrett said.

“It scares me. I don’t know what it’s going to do to the seafood market.”

Soon retailers like Foster and Garrett may have to start finding alternate suppliers.

“We’ll have to start getting shrimp elsewhere,” Foster said.

This could mean importing shrimp from China, Thailand, the East Coast and freshwater sources.

On top of increased transportation costs and a spiked demand for those alternatives, Foster said consumer confidence could augment shrimp prices further.

“Nothing drives up prices like a good scare,” he said.

The fate of the oyster seems even bleaker.

“Oysters will go way up. In fact we may have to take them off our menu,” Foster said.

Popular seafood items such as catfish and tilapia may feel the shockwaves of the domino effect as their demand rises with a limited availability and access to other menu selections.

Foster didn’t anticipate those changes being too dramatic however.

“There will still be lots of good catfish,” he said.

While the consequences of the disaster in the Gulf continue to build on all fronts, local businesses can only adapt.

“Every cloud has an opportunity in it,” Foster said.

The “silver lining” for him, is the prospect of taking advantage of inland salt-water ponds in South American countries like Peru and Chile.

“They’ve learned to raise good shrimp like we raise catfish,” Foster said.

Garrett said he was prepared to make changes, as well.

“Right now it’ll be just wherever we can get them from,” he said.

“There are a lot of areas around the coast that provide seafood.”