Gulf oysters in short supply after Isaac

Louisiana oysters from area 7 at the Bourbon House restaurant on June 9, 2010 in New Orleans, La.

The State of Louisiana has suspended all fishing and oyster harvesting in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. This means oyster suppliers like P&J Oyster Company in New Orleans have limited product.

Sal Sunseri, the owner of P&J, says some restaurants are already back in business. "Yesterday, we sold just a little bit to a couple restaurants. And today, was I'd say about 12 restaurants were open, ready to roll. And by Monday, they're all going to be demanding oysters and we will have a limited supply, but they're wanting oysters."

The biggest problem right now, he says, is access to Louisiana oysters. "Because we cannot get Texas oysters right now because we certainly rely on our neighbors, but they don't have anything. We have a red tide situation. Alabama and Mississippi don't have any. Now, Florida might have some for us, that could help through this time."

Sunseri says the limited product will be the big follow-up story coming out of the remains of Isaac.

 

Kai Ryssdal: What's left of Isaac is dribbling out over the southeastern United States today, having brought with it wind and lots and lots of water. We'll check in with our Missouri rancher Ken Lenox in a minute, about the benefits of a little rain in the middle of a long dry spell.

First though, oysters and New Orleans. Sal Sunseri runs P&J Oysters in New Orleans. We had him on Monday, before Isaac hit. Thought we'd call him back up now that most of it's gone. Sal, good to talk to you again.

Sal Sunseri: Glad to be here.

Ryssdal: And you're there, right? That's a plus.

Sunseri: Well, exactly. It certainly could have been a whole lot worse.

Ryssdal: So what was it like? Did you guys lose power, how much business did you lose?

Sunseri: Last day of business was Monday, so we went to work yesterday for a little bit. There were a few people open, surprisingly, but we don't have a lot of product, so that's going to be the interesting follow-up to the tale that will be told for this latest storm.

Ryssdal: But talk to me about the oysters. I mean, can you get out there and look around and see how they're doing?

Sunseri: No, not yet. Because the winds are still out, so I would venture to say that tomorrow or the next day, when the wind dies down, that we'll be able to kind of get an idea of what's up. Everything's closed right now. The state health department automatically shuts down after a storm like this.

Ryssdal: Right, so all the oyster beds and all the fishing and all that stuff.

Sunseri: Exactly, exactly.

Ryssdal: Are you hearing anything from restaurateurs about people wanting to get back in business and coming to you?

Sunseri: Well, yeah. Like I said, yesterday, we sold just a little bit to a couple restaurants. And today, was I'd say about 12 restaurants were open, ready to roll. And by Monday, they're all going to be demanding oysters and we will have a limited supply, but they're wanting oysters.

Ryssdal: When you can finally get back in business, how long is it going to be before you're up to full production?

Sunseri: Again, it goes back to whether or not we open up Louisiana. Because we cannot get Texas oysters right now because we certainly rely on our neighbors, but they don't have anything. We have a red tide situation. Alabama and Mississippi don't have any. Now, Florida might have some for us, that could help through this time.

Ryssdal: How much does -- I guess we're going on, what, four days out of business, going on five now -- how much is this going to cost you?

Sunseri: It's going to cost quite a bit. It all depends on when we're going to be able to get Louisiana product.

Ryssdal: Do Louisiana oysters taste better?

Sunseri: Always. You know that, you've been here.

Ryssdal: I have. It's been a long time, but I have. Well, good luck to you Sal. Sal Sunseri at P&J Oysters in New Orleans. Sal, thanks a lot.

Sunseri: Appreciate you guys.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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