Spill Forces Layoffs In 'Seafood Capital Of The World'

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The oil spill has had rippling effects to the fishing, shrimping and oystering industries along the Gulf Coast. In Mississippi, employees were laid off at a seafood processing plant. In Biloxi, referred to as the "seafood capital of the world," shrimp are scarce and there are worries that imports will have to do.

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Many fishermen have been hit hard by the oil spill. A number of commercial fishing grounds are now closed, and that's reduced the supply and raised the price of seafood.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Phoebe Judge reports.

PHOEBE JUDGE: It looked like business as usual at Crystal Seas Seafood yesterday in Pass Christian, Mississippi, where employees spent the day shucking oysters. But on Monday, half of the 120 employees at Crystal Seas were laid off.

Manager Jennifer Jenkins says the oil spill and fishing ban have limited their oyster supply.

Ms. JENNIFER JENKINS (Manager, Crystal Seas Seafood): This has had a big effect on us, and they're going to have a lot of lost wages, among the 60 that are left.

JUDGE: Oyster prices at Crystal Seas have gone up by 25 percent in the last two weeks.

Down the road at Desportes Seafood in Biloxi, manager Sean Desportes says shrimp are so scarce, and the price is so high, he's worried he'll need to rely on imports.

Mr. SEAN DESPORTES (Manager, Desportes & Sons Seafood): It's terrible for our local fishermen and for us, you know, that, you know, our seafood is so much better - better tasting and, you know, it's going to hurt our economy because, you know, we're known - down here in Biloxi - we're known for being the seafood capital of the world. And we don't want to change that now.

JUDGE: The American Shrimp Processing Association says the industry was already dealing with low shrimp stocks before the oil slick. And it's not just Mississippi that now has higher seafood prices. Restaurants from Florida to Pennsylvania are also charging more.

For NPR News, I'm Phoebe Judge in Gulfport, Mississippi.

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