Gulf seafood: Will the Twin Cities be affected?

Louisiana oyster worker circa 1938
Louisiana oyster worker circa 1938

As BP oil spills on and on into the Gulf, the seafood industry is being especially hard hit. With P & J Oysters in New Orleans--a major supplier, and the oldest plant of its kind in the United States with 134 years in business--shutting its doors, this had us wondering about the status of seafood in the Twin Cities.

We spoke with Tim Lauer, general manager of Coastal Seafoods, which supplies the fish and shellfish to many of the Twin Cities' best restaurants. He explained that Gulf seafood is a very small part of his business. About 14 years ago, Coastal stopped carrying Gulf oysters because they are filter feeders--meaning that they live on plankton and are typically found in warmer waters, making them a safety risk. Coastal is still selling Gulf shrimp from less affected areas in Texas, although those shrimp were harvested before the waters became polluted. 

Area seafood sellers are seeing some panic buying, and prices of shrimp seem to be on the rise. Lauer attributes this to recent record low prices due to the recession and believes the situation in the Gulf is only partially to blame.

But back in New Orleans, P & J's co-owners, brothers Al and Sal Sunseri, hold onto hope that their closure will not be permanent; It is estimated that it will take at least three years for the oyster harvest to be safe. The Sunseri's 25 employees are now looking for work.

You can read more on the effect the oil spill has had on the Twin Cities' seafood supply as Coastal's retail manager, Damon Holston, talks to CNN.

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