La. oyster fishery at ‘critical stage’

Published on
June 9, 2010

The Louisiana oyster fishery’s supply problems due to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have reached a “critical stage,” John Tesvich, president of Ameripure Processing Co. in Franklin, La., told SeafoodSource this week. Tesvich is also chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force and a member of the Plaquemines Oyster Association.

“You will see massive closures of oyster businesses, and restaurants will be taking oysters off the menu,” said Tesvich. Ameripure will be forced to close its doors by the end of June, due to a lack of supply from rotating oyster bed closures. The company hopes to re-open in the fall, if public reefs in Louisiana and Mississippi re-open.

By early June, Ameripure’s oyster supplies had dropped by around 40 percent. In addition, dealer prices have increased from around USD 28 per sack to USD 35 per sack since the closures began. Pat Fahey, managing partner of Ameripure, expects dealer prices to rise to about USD 40 per sack in the near future.

“Dockside prices are going up, and we are having to raise prices to our customers, so we don’t bleed to death during this interim period,” said Tesvich. Ameripure may be more impacted by the drop in supply because of the size of its operation, while smaller oyster vendors may stay in business throughout the spill, according to Tesvich.

“We have 60 employees and high overhead, so we need volume,” he said.

According to Fahey, some customers will seek out oyster supplies beyond the upper Gulf. Apalachicola, Fla., opened its season early, but it’s a small player. Galveston, Texas, opened about two weeks ago, but it is primarily already contracted under private leases. Delaware and other Northeastern states are currently harvesting oysters and may provide interim supply.

Tesvich and Fahey blame BP for the problems with the Gulf oyster fishery and believe the company should help the businesses most damaged by the spill.

“They have not come forward to help with the loss and disruption to seafood companies at all,” said Tesvich.

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