Oil Spill: Local seafood restaurants bracing for the worst

5:30 PM, May 3, 2010   |    comments
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Indian Rocks Beach, Florida --  If you've had oysters on the half shell at Crabby Bills... there's no doubt where it came from.

"All of our oysters, in the over 30 years we've been in the seafood restaurant business, have all come from the Gulf," said owner, Matt Loder.

From Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, to Florida, Loder says the oysters served on his plates are as fresh as possible.

While his goal is to keep the seafood local, Loder may not have much choice in the coming weeks as the oil spill spreads throughout the gulf.

"Now I'm afraid to look," said Loder.

On Sunday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed off about 6,800 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana to Pensacola Bay, restricting commercial and recreational fishing.

"We have a lot of relationships with a lot of suppliers and we've had some tell us we should be okay, that they'll have some supply for this week, we've had others say no, don't expect anything," Loder told 10 Connects.

He's already reaching out to other areas such as Virginia to help meet customer demand for oysters.

"We've known people in the Panhandle for 30 years.  It's not an easy life to be a commercial fisherman or oysterman and this certainly is one more thing on top of the other challenges they've got.  It seems a little unfair," said Loder.

One of his suppliers, Barber Seafood in East Point, Florida says they're already expecting the price of oysters to go from $30 per bag to $35 per bag by the weekend.

As the oil creeps closer and closer to Florida's coasts, the concern is mounting among oystermen along Florida's Forgotten Coast.

"We're scared to death," said David Barber, owner of Barber's Seafood.

"If they don't get it stopped (oil), it could put us all out of business," he added.

But the oil isn't here, yet.

On Monday, Florida's Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson stressed to consumers that seafood harvested in Florida is safe.

"Our shrimp, shellfish and other seafood being harvested right now are fine, and I don't want people watching reports of the oil spill to thing differently," said Bronson, "If and when Florida waters are impacted by the spill, we will take immediate action to close the waters to commercial and recreational harvesting."

The Florida Division of Aquaculture is closely monitoring oysters, along with the NOAA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


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