One of America’s largest suppliers of half-shell Gulf oysters is finally back to work. Five and a half months ago, AmeriPure was forced to shutter its processing operations, as a result of the economic and environmental fallout following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, all but three of the company’s 49 workers are back at their jobs.
The Franklin, Louisiana-based company had been one of America’s largest suppliers of half-shell Gulf oysters to grocery store chains and restaurants across America.
Managing Partner Patrick Fahey says his company is re-establish relationships with old customers, processing oysters that are coming from areas around Galveston Bay in Texas, and beginning to get back to normal. He anticipates that with the approaching holidays, demand for fresh oysters from the Gulf region will spike.
Fahey says that AmeriPure was forced to close in June after supplies of oysters were disrupted along the Louisiana coast by the BP oil gusher. Millions of oysters were killed, Fahey says, by fresh-water diversions from the Mississippi River that were ordered by the state. The maneuver was successful in pushing crude oil away from coastal estuaries and fertile oyster growing areas — but proved fatal to oysters, which require saltwater to live.
It could be another year before Louisiana oyster production returns to normal. Even now, he says, Louisiana’s oyster industry is struggling to get back on its feet. Other areas are producing smaller and less acceptable oysters.
Public oyster harvesting grounds opened this week along Louisiana’s coast. The state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission recently voted to indefinitely delay the opening for a broad area east of the Mississippi River, which state wildlife officials estimate produces about 28 percent of the oysters harvested in the state.
Many oyster harvesters and dealers supported closing that area and a tiny area west of the river, even though the state has fewer marketable oysters than usual because of natural and man-made factors, including the spill. They said dredging for oysters now might destroy the young seed oysters.