On the brink

Published on
July 13, 2010

Lurking beneath the oil-slicked surface of the Gulf of Mexico are more than 50 seafood species teetering on the brink. The trickle-down effect can be seen onshore, where seafood-related wholesalers, processors, retailers and restaurants scattered across four states face an uncertain future. What local seafood they were able to purchase in May and June won't last through the year, and tourism has already been curtailed by images of oil-soaked birds, fish and turtles. The future of the entire Gulf seafood industry, from fishing boats to restaurants, is in the crosshairs of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

While the initial disaster was fast — British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught on fire April 20 and collapsed a day later, killing 11 rig workers — the aftermath has been a long, drawn-out battle. Scientists and oil-company officials have debated how much oil is actually spewing into the Gulf: As of press time, the estimate had almost doubled to 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, up from the previous estimate of 20,000 to 40,000 barrels. This man-made environmental catastrophe will affect livelihoods and Gulf sea life for decades to come. Particularly for the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama - where Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc just five years ago - those who work in the industry are outraged and heartbroken. Some suppliers and processors are already shutting down due to lack of supply and soaring prices.

“This year, we finally got the price of Gulf shrimp back up, almost to where it was 10 years ago. In the last eight years, we have had four hurricanes, imported shrimp killed our market and the price of fuel was $4 per gallon. We are a resilient people, but this might be the end,” says Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, La.

To read the rest of the story on the Gulf oil disaster’s impact on the U.S. seafood supply, click here. Written by SeaFood Business and SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Christine Blank, the story ran in the July issue of SeaFood Business magazine.

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