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Oil spill creates seafood shortage for local restaurants

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Bushels Seafood Cafe has taken all its shrimp dishes off the menu after an expected delivery of its signature gulf white shrimp Friday didn't happen.

The cafe's distributor, International Oceanic Enterprises out of Alabama, didn't have enough of the shrimp, which is harvested only in the Gulf of Mexico, to fulfill orders in the metro Atlanta area, Bushels owner Darcey McGinnis said.

The shortage, she said, is a direct result of the ongoing oil spill off the Louisiana coast.

At least 10 people walked out of the Lawrenceville cafe Tuesday when they found out shrimp wasn't available, McGinnis said.

"Our customers really like the gulf white. They just taste different than any other shrimp out there," she said. "They want the big shrimp."

And Bushels won't serve any other type. McGinnis said doing so would compromise the quality of her food. Adjustments have been made to the menu and McGinnis, who owns the business with her husband, Earl, has offered to substitute crawfish for shrimp, but there haven't been many takers.

"That's very few and far between," she said.

While other seafood restaurants in the area haven't seen supplies of seafood dry up, prices are on the rise.

Steve Green, owner of Oyster Bay Cafe in Lawrenceville, has watched the cost of oysters increase even though Galveston Bay, where his oysters are harvested, hasn't been affected by the oil spill.

Green was paying $18.50 for a 100-count case of oysters when the spill occurred, a price that has since increased to $22.69.

Green anticipates it will only continue to rise.

"We were sure it would affect the oyster market eventually," he said. "The gulf thing is only getting worse and it's only going to get worse. Even if they cap this thing in the next month it's going to be years before it stops washing up on shore."

Still, Green said, the seafood that is coming in from the gulf is safe, a point President Barack Obama stressed while visiting Mississippi on Monday.

"You're not going to get a bad oyster," Green said. "They're not going to let the fisherman pull from the grounds that are even suspected of being contaminated."

John Souter, owner of Oyster Barn Grill and Bar in Lilburn, said the supply of oysters from Apalachicola Bay hasn't been affected but that could change if there's no one harvesting them.

"The people that harvest the oysters, they're taking advantage of the opportunity with BP," he said. "They're using their boats to clean up the spill, making $1,200 to $1,600 a day. The oysters are still there but there's no one to harvest them."

For the McGinnises at Bushels Seafood, they're still waiting on their delivery of gulf white shrimp.

"(Our contact with the company) is still saying Thursday, but he's like, 'Keep your fingers crossed,'" Darcey McGinnis said. "He doesn't know if he's going to have enough to fulfill all the orders, but he's hoping so."