Oil spill could impact Chicago's seafood businesses

May 3, 2010 4:27:57 PM PDT
The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico could cause an ecological disaster along the coast. It may also ruin business for shrimpers and fishermen. And that could cause big challenges for some Chicago businesses.

Overnight Plitt Seafood received hundreds of pounds of red snapper and grouper from the Gulf as well as 50 cases of gulf oysters. The near North Side wholesaler has customers from Kentucky to Wisconsin. They are getting their orders from the Gulf filled for now, but they know there will be changes.

"Some of the oyster beds have started to get closed. Not many, we're seeing that a little bit happening as this oil spill starts to move towards Louisiana, Mississippi and the Panhandle area. That's where a lot of these species are harvested and where they spawn and right now is actually spawning season," said Elizabeth Treadwell, Plitt Seafood.

Retailer Dirk Seafood will sell 150 pounds of Gulf tuna in a week. Owner Dirk Fucik says their tuna is safe and the schools will swim from any polluted waters but the Gulf shrimp aren't as mobile. Fucik is used to navigating shifts in the environment and seafood and is prepared to shift orders, especially for shrimp.

"I don't think it will be immediate. It will probably be more toward the end of summer into even into Christmas to tell you the truth because we buy a lot of peeled and devained shrimp that we use for cooking and that's the kind of stuff six months from now that might be a little more pricey," said Fucik.

Some of our favorite restaurants are working on their strategy with changes in seafood supply.

McCormick and Schmick's has dozens of fish and shellfish on the menu. As a national chain, they've had to plan for fluidity of seafood. The company's spokesman released a statement saying:"We are monitoring the Gulf oil spill with updates multiple times per day from our suppliers as we are sensitive to the economic impact on the region and the overall effect on markets from this issue."

As those in the seafood industry watch and wait, customers can expect some prices to increase with more demand for seafood away from the affected areas. Some suspect that seafood may remain a bit more pricey through the year.

The BP oil company that operated the drill is promising to pay shrimpers, fisherman and others for damage and injuries from the oil spill. The White House wants more information on exactly what the company means and how it will determine those damages.


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