Lenten season begins, seafood prices are up

Lenten season begins, seafood prices are up

With the start of the Lenten season, local seafood markets are busy - but prices are not what they used to be.

Inside Schaefer's Seafood in Metairie, workers washed live crawfish while others boiled them and still others sold them to customers at the counter. Shrimp and crabs were also being sold.

"In New Orleans, it's typical. Lent is not so much a punishment for us because we get to eat seafood, which we do all the time and we love it," said Keith Frischhertz who was picking up his order of 20 pounds of crawfish, plus shrimp and trimmings.

But taking home Louisiana seafood right now will likely mean paying more.

"Seafood and cold fronts, one of the things that don't go good together, plenty of cold fronts, we get less seafood in," said Merlin Schaefer, who runs the Bucktown business that has been in his family for generations.

"There's a shortage of crabs, you know, there's not plenty crabs being caught," Schaefer said.

Even though it has been years since the BP oil spill, Schaefer said they are still feeling the negative effects.

"We don't have the reproduction of the seafood like we used to have," Schaefer said.

He said large shrimp are not as plentiful. At Schaefer's they're selling for $6.75 per pound. Schaefer said before the BP spill, large shrimp would go for $4.50 to $5 per pound this time a year and even less during shrimp season.

"Shrimp, prices of shrimp are very expensive right now, and that's because of the spill," Schaefer said.

Miles away in Uptown New Orleans, people lined up to buy crawfish, shrimp, crabs and fish at Big Fisherman Seafood on Magazine Street.

"I've been doing it 31 years for myself, and I've never seen it so challenging and so expensive," said owner Henry Poynot.

He agreed that supply is limited.

"I believe that they're going to wind up having to put a season on the crabs like they do the shrimp," Poynot said.

And he said some customers complain about higher prices.

"They come in and they're raising all kind of noise about the price of crawfish, and you know it's winter time. I tell them try and take a cold shower right now and see how you feel," Poynot said.

His live crawfish are $4.59 a pound, and shrimp, depending on the size, are selling for $7.99 to $9.99 a pound.

But Poynot said the higher prices do not translate into higher profits.

"We struggled through the off-season, and I'd like to see people get out and eat some local seafood," Poynot said.

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