Sandy hampers U.S. seafood supply

As Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard today, residents and businesses battened down the hatches. Anticipated closures of some shellfish harvesting areas, commercial fishing boats remained at port and commercial cargo interruptions will likely impact seafood supplies this week, but according to one shellfish distributor that won’t be a problem.

“We’re just not expecting sales to be that strong,” said Ben Lloyd, owner of Pangea Shellfish, a Boston-based distributor.

Lloyd said many of the restaurants he distributes to typically don’t do much business during the week of Halloween anyway, and with Sandy driving residents indoors, demand should be even lighter.

“A lot of those guys just aren’t even open today,” Lloyd said.

According to CNN, a total of 94 people have lost their lives in the storm, including 26 in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes as Sandy caused the closing of schools and the shutting down of train and bus lines. Fox News reported that more than 12,000 domestic airline flights have been canceled, and CNN has reported that as of Tuesday, both JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York City remain closed, but JFK may re-open on Wednesday.

Every state along the eastern seaboard, from Florida to Maine, is feeling some effect from the storm, but Lloyd said he has had enough time to prepare.

“We’ve had harvesters go out ahead of the storm in anticipation of any closures,” he said.

The brunt of the storm was headed for landfall in New Jersey, where the Department of Environmental Protection issued a release today indicating that shellfish beds statewide closed as of sunrise this morning “as a precaution due to expected heavy rainfall from Hurricane Sandy.”

The release indicated the ban only applied to shellfish such as clams, oysters, mussels and scallops, and did not apply to crustaceans, including crabs, but the ban affects over 720,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in the Garden State.

In Maryland, distributors J.J. McDonnell and Congressional Seafood have both reported they are closed, with an automated message from Congressional indicating the company will not re-open until 3 a.m. Wednesday. Phillips Seafood announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that "We've decided to remain closed," citing the company's Baltimore, Washington, Annapolis, Md. and Atlantic City, N.J. offices.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were no indications of any bans yet in Maryland or other nearby states, but Lloyd said he and his company are proceeding as though government officials will put a stop to fishing for the next few days.

“Even if they don’t, I don’t think anyone will be fishing until Thursday,” he said. High winds, he added, will keep most fishermen off the water until the weather clears.


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