Short-Term Seafood Shortage? Yep, We've Got Sandy to Thank for This, Too

Experts say impact won't last long, but consumers may see a decrease in availability.

Yet another awful side-effect of Hurricane Sandy: disruption of fisheries along the Atlantic coast. (Photo: Myles New/Getty Images)
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it may seem callous for those of us not affected by the storm to worry about when we’ll get our lobster. But for fishermen and seafood wholesalers up and down the East Coast, they’d like nothing better than to get the fresh catch of the day back on restaurant menus as soon as possible.

As you might expect, sales of Atlantic seafood have taken a direct blow this week. From oyster beds in North Carolina that were closed due to concerns about contaminated storm water runoff to lobster boats in Maine forced to stay in port, little in the way of Atlantic fish or shellfish has been making its way to market. Shuttered airports, gridlocked traffic and blackouts have only compounded the problem.

Frank Gonzalez, a seafood wholesaler in faraway Ohio, tells a local paper that he expects his business to be down by half in the next week or two. With transportation networks in a snarl, one Massachusetts wholesaler had to resort to auctioning off the seafood in his warehouse, while the Boston-based Mazza family, who runs a wholesale business in Chicago as well, had to wait three days to get a shipment of seafood to the Midwest.

“Our tank holds over 100 pounds of lobsters. It only has three lobsters in there today,” Jeff Mazza told a local ABC affiliate on Tuesday.

A single hurricane can have a devastating long-term impact on some fisheries, notes the Ocean View blog at National Geographic. “After Hurricane Katrina, 90 percent of Mississippi’s oyster beds were lost, and 74 percent of Louisiana’s were destroyed,” the blog says. Destruction of reefs and marshes, which often serve as nurseries for fish, can decimate once fertile fishing grounds and put smaller fishing operations out of business.

Even as some local fisherman may struggle for months to recover, industry experts say that, overall, they expect the market for Atlantic seafood to bounce back within the next week or two. Until then, though, the loss of business is just another item in the ledger tallying the overall economic impact of the super storm.

“When you have something of this magnitude — 600 miles wide — there’s nothing you can do about it,” wholesaler Frank Gonzalez said. “We’ll weather through it, but it hurts. Everyone’s going to be impacted.”

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