Worries intensify over seafood prices, supply

By Jeff Ferrell – bio|email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Predictions just keep getting worse for the gulf in the wake of the oil spill.  And there's word that the danger to seafood, and the need for testing, could be necessary for decades to come.

Make no mistake fear is in ample supply when it comes to seafood from the gulf.  But it's the reaction from consumers that may come as a surprise.  Despite a surge in prices in recent weeks and days in certain products, demand is also up.  We wanted to find out why.

When you see all that oil leaking deep below the surface, consider this:  Gulf products account for five percent of the seafood consumed in the United States.  And at Farmer's Seafood in North Shreveport it's a far higher percentage with most of its two million dollar inventory coming from the Gulf of Mexico.

And already, the price of some items, like shrimp, is up 10-percent.  Alex Mijalis, the owner of Farmer's Seafood told us, "People are just buying and storing it, worrying about the future because we don't know what's going to happen yet.  That's one reason shrimp is going up."

As a supplier to a thousand clients, what happens at Farmers' Seafood quickly reaches everything from restaurants to schools.  With the price of seafood already up ten percent or higher on some items that come from the gulf, the big question is, 'how much higher could it go?'

Duc Duong normally pays five to six dollars a pound for shrimp this time of year, as owner of Kim's Seafood and Po Boy Restaurant in Bossier City.  Duong said, "Shrimp have gone up around a dollar a pound."

But Duong makes a vow to customers not to raise his seafood prices one penny.  "I won't make any money (laugh) that's for sure."  He's just hoping to ride out the storm, by eating that extra cost, to keep his loyal customers.

On a larger scale comes the question, will consumers pay more for seafood or buy less?  Cathy Addington, a loyal and longtime customer of Farmer's Seafood reflected, "I think they're going to buy it.  If they want it they're going to buy it.  I really believe that because there's a lot of seafood lovers in Louisiana, you know. (laugh)."

Adding to fears, this week the government doubled the area in the gulf off limits to fishing, which is now roughly the size of Pennsylvania.  But Mijalis concluded, "I don't think, there's no need to panic.  I think we should take it day by day, you know.  We're going to make it some kind of way."

Daily seafood tasting includes the use of so-called "sniffers," people trained to detect the presence of oil in seafood by using their noses.  And the human nose is described by experts as the best oil detection tool available.  One thing is for sure, many Louisiana residents already think this whole disaster stinks.

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