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Gulf Seafood Making An Inconsistent Recovery

By Rhonda Miller | Published 11 Sep 2011 10:05pm | comments
The 30th Annual Biloxi Seafood Festival drew an estimated 20,000 people during the two-day festival.

One year after the BP oil spill, the 30th Annual Biloxi Seafood Festival is a testament to the city’s enduring relationship with the Gulf of Mexico. But from Biloxi to Boston, MPB’s Rhonda Miller found Gulf seafood making an inconsistent recovery. 

"Well, I’ve got some boiled shrimp here for my Mom and I. We’re going to check it out. It looks very good." That’s Gary McCarn of Gulfport. He says a year makes a big difference. "Last year I came out here to this same event and to be honest with you, I didn’t eat the shrimp."

Last year, the Gulf seafood industry was drowning in worldwide images of oiled birds and beaches.  This year, at the Biloxi seafood festival, Sam Burke is serving plate after plate of shrimp. Burke is on the board of the chamber of commerce and says he didn’t find this enthusiasm for Gulf seafood when he was traveling in Washington, D.C. in the spring.

"When I travel for work, I always ask them, at every restaurant I eat at when I leave town, 'Where do you get your seafood?' And, of course, I hear it comes from somewhere else, and I tell them, 'Buy Mississippi, buy Gulf Coast,"  Burke said.

That naturally raises questions about whether Gulf seafood is being served in other regions.

A phone call to The Gulf Shrimp Company in Plantsville, Connecticut, near Hartford, found sales manager Scott Wishart with 1,200 pounds of Gulf shrimp on hand. Wishart says that will probably be sold in a month.

"We up here, we’re probably selling more Gulf shrimp now than we were prior to the oil spill," Wishart said. "Our customers, they like to keep their products domestic. They like to keep it in state, whenever possible, but they'd also rather see the money going into the U.S. economy than as to a foreign economy."

But on the Gulf coast, seafood is more than a business. It’s still a thriving culture. At the Biloxi Seafood Festival, the Leach and Lamey  families from Latimer, near Ocean Springs, have T-shirts that read L&L Gumbo. Pam Leach says it's just for fun.

"My friend, Debbie, and my daughter, Cayla, and I came to the festival four years ago and went through the gumbo cook-off and we said, 'We can do this next year' and we’ve been here every year since," Leach said.

They’re not making any money on the gumbo. But what they gain is the satisfaction of keeping alive the seafood culture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 



The 30th Annual Biloxi Seafood Festival drew an estimated 20,000 people during the two-day festival.



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