CANADA (July 7, 2010)—The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has American buyers resorting to Prince Edward Island (PEI) seafood producers to meet their demand.
"We certainly don't want to take advantage of the situation, but we do have something as a replacement that is healthy and sustainable,'' said Jerry Bidgood of Prince Edward Aqua Farms mussel farm in New London, PEI, reports The Gazette.
Bidgood got calls from buyers in Texas and other southern US states last week. He expects demand will continue to escalate, although it is too early to tell by how much.
"At first we thought it just might be the holiday bump (4 July), but it's become clear there is a shortage and buyers are seeking a replacement here," Bidgood continued.
Because some restaurants in the southern US are now unable to acquire shrimp, they have purchased PEI mussels to offer their customers. Demand may persist until the environmental slaughter in the Gulf created by the BP tragedy subsides.
Calvin Jolimore of Green Gables Mussels does not often do business with buyers located so far away, but he has become aware of the demand flourishing in the business through his work as a director with the PEI Aquaculture Alliance (PEIAA).
Alliance sources said the dearth of shrimp and oysters has led restaurants to switch to mussels. Six mussel processors currently exist in the province.
Because other provinces have expanded mussel production this year, supply is very high and demand will continue to be met.
"There are extra mussels available, and we're ready to ship, but we certainly don't want to leave any impression that we're trying to take over someone's market,'' Jolimore noted. "We're just an alternative at this point."
PEI mussels are shipped six to seven days a week into the Boston market, from which they are subsequently distributed within the US.
Processors said larger orders will make marketing options more viable due to the high shipping costs for small amounts.
Several US distributors of shrimp, such as Sysco Corp and US Foodservice, have been buying seafood from overseas processors in Indonesia, Ecuador, Thailand and other countries to help meet demand. Due to low shrimp supplies last month, imported shrimp prices rose by 13 per cent, said a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute (NFI).
Meanwhile, university scientists have found oil in crab larvae, and say the effect could for last years and adversely impact several species and ecosystems.
"If the oil or the dispersant doesn't kill them outright, we're going to be seeing chronic sublethal effects that may affect reproduction and actually the genetics of the animal itself and it's gonna take a long time for those to manifest," said Harriet Perry, director of the Centre for Fisheries Research and Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL).