BP oil spill has left saltwater seafood prices high in Plaquemine restaurants one year later

Tryve Brackin
Carbo's Seafood is among the local businesses that has felt the pinch from higher prices in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

It was a year ago that the BP oil spill just off the Louisiana Gulf Coast began to impact the seafood industry in Iberville Parish as well as across the nation.

POST SOUTH interviewed a restaurant business owner only a few days after the spill about the quality and price of bulk saltwater seafood. Immediately, the prices jumped per pound and the supply dipped a bit and remained lower than previously. Today, the owner is no longer in the seafood restaurant business.

Last week two local seafood restaurant owners in Plaquemine provided informative interviews. Both were owners prior to the BP spill and continue in business.

Sandy Carbo has operated Carbo Seafood in Bayou Pigeon for nine years now. Even with the ramifications of the oil spill still lingering, she opened up a second restaurant on Belleview Road in Plaquemine. She says everything is going well at both locations.

“I want to think my experience in operating the restaurant in Bayou Pigeon gave me the confidence to open a second location. So far, so good,” noted Carbo.

Just a couple of miles east of Carbo’s, Wag-A-Sack continues operating a variety menu buffet each lunchtime as well as other dinner hours. The deli is not a seafood restaurant, but it does sell seafood once and sometimes twice a week.

Owner Bill Blanchard noted that “All food items are getting more and more expensive, not just seafood. We have had to raise plate lunch prices because of it. Prices have risen on a steady basis over the last year, but I have noticed some of the seafood prices have dropped a little over the last couple of months. However, I don’t think the prices will ever go back to what they were before the oil spill and since everything else began to go up in recent months.”

Blanchard said the price rise is right along with the national trend to higher food prices. He added that saltwater seafood is available and buying local helps a little to hold down wholesale prices.

Like Blanchard, Carbo saw a spike in saltwater seafood prices and a sudden slack in availability immediately after the spill.

“We were able to stock shrimp after the spill, but it took months to get oysters. And, when we got them, customers seemed concerned about eating them,” noted Carbo.

She added that prices have never gone down. Oysters have increased from around $15 a bucket to close to $56 a bucket. Shrimp is up as well, but she has noticed a bit of a dip in both. She takes into consideration the cost of all wholesale food, like Blanchard.

“Everything is up in price from lettuce to bread and so forth,” she noted.

Carbo does get her freshwater fish from the Bell River area and she says it helps to buy locally as much as possible. She is considering adding frog legs to her menu.

“I don’t think prices will ever be the same again. We managed to make it through the unavailability right after the spill as well as the price hikes. But, when prices go up we have to do what is necessary to keep it going. The Gulf oil spill did not do any of us any good though,” explained Blanchard.