Get ready for higher seafood prices

HOUSTON Gulf oysters are becoming hard to find and the cost of shrimp is going up, and as the spill continues, prices could stay high for some time.

There is plenty of fresh fish to go around at one Houston seafood wholesaler, but when it comes to oysters, only bags from Texas waters are coming in, and Gulf shrimp is hard to find, too.

"There is a big shortage of shrimp today which has driven the prices up considerably," said Jim Gossen, CEO of Louisiana Foods.

Gossen's warehouse has seen the cost of Gulf Coast shrimp jump by $2 a pound, and that gets passed right along to the consumer. Some shrimp are selling for $9 to $11 per pound in stores.

Even the influx of foreign varieties won't keep prices down.

"The shrimp come from all over the world today. It is a world market, and those prices have gone up because of the Gulf being closed," said Gossen.

As for oysters, Texas waters are providing some product, but Gossen says it's not enough for the demand. He says some restaurants are even taking oysters off the menu.

"What I see with oysters is that industry has pretty much shut down. There is a little bit operating here in Texas," said Gossen. "The people we get oysters from are very limited. We get them some day, and some days, we don't."

For consumers, the price hikes have not been enough to keep them from ordering their favorite foods, at least for now.

"I have not really noticed much of a price increase, but it's coming. I've got a feeling. Hopefully, it will pan out," said Kenny Baucum.

Wholesalers say you'll probably notice the price hikes at grocery stores first since they can change prices daily to reflect the higher cost for wholesalers.

For shrimp, the prices will stay high at least until the Texas shrimping season kicks back up in July. As for oysters, wholesalers tell us it could be two or three years before supplies of Gulf oysters are up to pre-oil spill levels because it takes about that long for oyster beds to recover.

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