High Cost of Fuel Killing Oyster and Shrimp Businesses

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The next time you buy seafood, you’ll probably feel the effects of Hurricane Katrina. With Louisiana’s seafood industry hurt by Katrina and fuel prices at record highs, you’ll pay more for oysters and shrimp.

But the price increase may not be enough to save Florida’s struggling shrimp industry.

At Florida seafood markets, customers are shelling out an extra three dollars a bushel for oysters. They’ve gone from 26 bucks a bushel to $29.00; the 12 percent jump is a side effect of Hurricane Katrina.

Herman Spicerprescott works at Spears Seafood Market and says, “We had customers, you know, just last week we explain we pay more. It’s kind of trickle down, they have to pay more also.”

The price of oysters has jumped dramatically because Louisiana produces 40 percent of the nation’s supply, and Katrina has virtually wiped out the Louisiana market. Now Florida oysters are in demand and prices are expected to rise in restaurants as well.

If you’re a shrimp lover, there’s more bad news. If gas prices remain high, the price of shrimp is expected to rise.

Bob Jones, the President of the Southeaster Fisheries Association says those in the shrimp business say the high price of diesel is killing the industry.

“It needs to go up at least .50 to $1.00 a pound in order to keep the boats able to work under the current fuel prices. Fuel is the elephant in the room. If it doesn’t go down, there’ll be no fishing.”

Ninety percent of the shrimp consumed in the United States is imported; most of it from China, so prices are expected to rise, but perhaps not enough to save the state’s shrimpers who say it costs a gallon of fuel to catch a pound of shrimp.

Red tide is also causing problems for Florida’s fishing industry. Bob Jones of the Southeastern Fisheries Association says the state needs to test the water for pollution and find out what’s causing an increase in red tide.