Irene causes headaches on U.S. East Coast

Hurricane Irene swept across the U.S. East Coast this weekend, making landfall near Cape Lookout, N.C., on Saturday morning and diminishing as it churned northward through New England and into Atlantic Canada as a tropical storm on Sunday evening.

Though it wasn’t as devastating as forecasters had predicted, the storm forced the cancellation of about 9,000 flights, washed away roads and bridges, left more than 4 million homes and businesses without power and killed at least 40 people in 10 states.

For the region’s fishing and seafood industries, Irene led to more than a few headaches.

States from Virginia to Maine were forced to temporarily close their beds to shellfish harvesting due to excessive flooding and stormwater runoff, impacting oyster and clam harvesters. Fishermen were forced to either secure their vessels or head out to sea, affecting locally caught seafood supplies.

Houston-based fish oil and fishmeal maker Omega Protein Corp. on Monday said its Reedville, Va., processing facility suffered no material damage from Irene, though it was still without power. Its fishing vessels were also unharmed.

“The company cannot predict when power will be restored, although it is hopeful this could occur this week,” said Omega Protein.

Chuck Anderson of Sousa Seafood in Boston reported in his Monday e-mail that the Whaling City Display Auction in New Bedford, Mass., and the Boston Seafood Display Auction were still in the dark due to Irene

“Overall, fishing effort was light over the weekend as the hurricane was well publicized to hit the New England coast for days,” said Anderson, who’s also a SeafoodSource blogger. “A couple trip boats landed over the weekend and auctioned in Gloucester [Mass.]. Day-boat volume is light. The storm kept most boats in over the weekend, but some boats apparently worked Gulf of Maine and in shore areas on Friday and Saturday.”

“The weather is much better today in New England, so we should see day-boat fish tomorrow,” he added.

Fortune Fish Co. in Bensenville, Ill., posted on its Facebook page that it is “definitely feeling the effects of Hurricane Irene. East Coast seafood production is limited as boats were unable to go out and flights canceled.”

The National Restaurant Association issued a statement on Irene’s impact: “The National Restaurant Association offers our sympathies to those who suffered loss of life or property damage, and applauds the federal, state and local disaster preparedness communities for their work in preparing us for the worst as we all hoped for the best. We also recognize the frustration of some restaurant communities that were not heavily impacted by Irene, but were evacuated or closed in anticipation of projected damage. It is not entirely possible to predict where a storm of Irene’s size will cause the most damage, and while we applaud the caution shown that undoubtedly saved lives, we sympathize with those where losses will be primarily financial.”

On a lighter note, the Hieronymus Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Wilmington, N.C., posted an amusing sign in response to Irene that read, “We are open until the letters fly off this sign.”


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