Local restaurants desperate for relief from higher seafood prices

Local restaurants desperate for relief from higher seafood prices

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Local restaurants are having to deal with a scarcity of some types of seafood and price increases for others, due to problems with too much freshwater coming into fishing areas from the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

With a dramatic increase in the price of crab meat, Bayou Bistro owner Eric Gilbert said his restaurant has no other choice but to make adjustments. Gilbert

Plus, last week the state issued an advisory against eating seafood from the Lake Pontchartrain due to algae, leaving many hoping things will improve soon.

Gilbert said the team at Bayou Bistro was coming out of one of their busiest weekends ever, thanks to Essence Fest crowds.

“There’s been so many people, we’ve had lines to get into this place,” Gilbert said.

And as patrons continued to come in Monday (July 8) Bayou Bistro chef Sidney Montrel said they’ve had to deal with various challenges caused by fresh water and algae blooms in the lake and estuaries of Southeast Louisiana.

“I have to go to the grocery stores right now, because it’s hard to get blue crab, and it’s more expensive than usual,” Montrel said.

Crabbers like Chris Pomes are complaining that river water from the spillway has chased crabs from the lake and contributed to a 35 percent death rate for those that they are finding further out.

“We’re off 90,000 pounds this month,” Pomes said.

A state health department advisory against eating seafood from the lake remained in place as of Monday, forcing crabbers to head west in search of a viable catch.

“We going to Dulac, almost to St. Mary," Pomes said. “We were going to St. Mary a couple of weeks ago, to get crabs.”

This, Pomes said, is what has caused such a dramatic increase in the price of crab meat. Montrel said the cost has nearly doubled.

When restaurants like Bayou Bistro have to deal with higher prices, they have to make sacrifices in order to make ends meet, Montrel said.

“We’ve had to make other cuts in the kitchen to cut down on labor,” he said.

Many are now watching the gulf to see if a tropical system will bring in salt water from the southeast later this week.

“I’m hoping and praying that it will get better and improve,” Montrel said.

However, according to FOX 8 meteorologist Bruce Katz, while a storm could be building in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s too early to say how much of an impact it will have.

“It’s early at this point, but hurricane center is putting this coming in in five days,” Katz said. “We have a lot of freshwater, it’s messing up lake salinity, if we can get this storm to push in a sweet spot of saltwater, that might help fishermen down there, but right now it’s up in the air."

If the storm brings any wind or tidal push to this area, it won’t be until later this week, Katz said. In the meantime, local seafood dealers said they believe this algae will only get worse, due to the hot temperatures expected the next couple of days.

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