Oil spill won't have much impact on seafood supply in the Midwest - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Oil spill won't have much impact on seafood supply in the Midwest

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Wednesday night, environmental experts report that the oil spill in the Gulf is drifting close to the Florida panhandle. Federal officials say clean up costs are topping $123 million. National Guard members are building walls, and BP is hiring local fishermen to help build boom to protect the shoreline.

The disaster is having a great impact on spring shrimp and oyster fishermen. They're limited to areas that are designated as "safe" from oil. State officials are re-drawing maps daily to protect seafood quality. But the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board claims many people are confused about which areas are open or closed. The areas closed to oyster harvesting change just about daily. And although this is the opening week for spring shrimping season, the Board reports low numbers of boats on the water.

While there's no question the spill is impacting seafood supplies in the South, local chefs say you probably won't notice a difference on your plate, or in your wallet. The menu at Roux Orleans is a little Creole and a little Cajun. But get this -- the fresh fish comes from all over the globe.

"I'd say about 25% of our menu is based in seafood, but it's not entirely from the gulf," said Chef Brice Dix.

In fact, very little of it comes from the land of the Big Easy. The shrimp is from India. Chef Dix said the oysters are from Texas. And to ensure the best quality, basically all of the seafood is flash-frozen, and stockpiled.

"We haven't seen the price hike because there's so much product already caught and frozen," said Chef Dix.

Of course, some people like to fire up their own shrimp dinner -- especially in the warmer months.

"Everybody wants to grill seafood," said Hy-Vee Chef Jim Nadeau.

The College Square Hy-Vee has, what might be, the largest seafood counter in the Cedar Valley.

"Our seafood specialist brings in seafood from both East and West coast, as well as the Gulf," said Chef Nadeau.

The wild caught jumbo shrimp in the window once called the Gulf Coast home. But the oil spill has not caused the price to skyrocket. In fact, its actually on sale.

"It hasn't affected us just yet, and we don't see it affecting us in the near future," said Nadeau.

And if the supply from the Gulf is diminished, there are other oceans to turn to.

"We'll just pick it up from somewhere else. That's just what you do, whether I'm working at Hy-Vee or in a restaurant."

Chef Dix said, if there is a price increase on shrimp or oysters, we won't see it for several months. The USDA is placing strict regulations on any seafood coming out of the Gulf Coast. Chef Nadeau said all product currently on the market is safe.

Chef Dix and Chef Nadeau expressed their sympathy for fishermen and restaurants in Louisiana. Seafood is not only part of the southern cuisine, it's ingrained in their culture. But the chefs are confident the area will recover from this disaster.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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