Seafood scarce, safe

Published 4:00 am Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shrimp and oyster lovers can still enjoy their favorite dishes, but the future of the availability may be shaky.

Josh Godwin and Rob Faircloth, co-owners and managers of David’s Catfish House in Brewton and Atmore, say the restaurants are still serving Gulf shrimp but the supplies may be dwindling.

“We get our shrimp from Bayou LaBatre and they are still shrimping in waters that are open,” Godwin said. “We are still serving Gulf seafood, but doing that is becoming more challenging.”

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Godwin said the restaurant typically orders 800 or more pounds of shrimp each week, however, that demand wasn’t met last week.

“We had placed an order for 800 pounds of shrimp last week,” Godwin said. “Our supplier was only able to get 500 pounds for us and we had to pick them up.”

Faircloth said delivery of seafood items from Bayou LaBatre to Brewton and Atmore had already stopped forcing the owners to make the trip to get items for the restaurants.

“The company we used for delivery went out of business two weeks ago,” Faircloth said. “He just couldn’t make it since the business has changed so much. We have to make arrangements to go to Bayou LaBatre and pick up any seafood we order now. That makes things a little more difficult for us, but we will do it to continue serving our customers.”

Faircloth said the availability of oysters is becoming an issue with none being available until Thursday.

“There weren’t any oysters available last week,” Faircloth said. “We weren’t able to get any this week until Thursday. Our supplier, M&A Oysters in Bayou LaBatre, said we only have a week or so left to get available oysters.”

Faircloth said the supplier of oysters said the slim supply of oysters could run out in a very short time.

“We have been serving Gulf oysters for a long time and we know that’s what people in this area like,” Faircloth said. “We could get oysters from other places, but we want to keep serving good products to our loyal customers. If we can’t get Gulf oysters we probably won’t sell any oysters.”

As far as the continued availability of shrimp to the two restaurants, Faircloth said he and supplies remain optimistic.

“We get our shrimp from Sea Pearl in Bayou LaBatre and they seem pretty optimistic that we can continue to get good shrimp,” Faircloth said. “They are still shrimping in open waters and are hopeful that they can continue supplying shrimp for us.”

Faircloth said the restaurants have always served wild Alabama brown shrimp and is planning to continue that service.

“We have always served the same kind of shrimp and we don’t want to change that,” Faircloth said. “Our customers have been good to us and they’ve hung in there with us. We are a family value business and we want to continue that.”

Faircloth said that there may be a time when it becomes necessary to search outside of Bayou LaBatre for the restaurants supply of shrimp.

“We will only serve good, quality shrimp,” Faircloth said. “We may have to look elsewhere to get shrimp, but I will not sell foreign shrimp. If we can’t get shrimp from somewhere in the southeast, we just won’t have them.”

Godwin said prices of available seafood have shot up in recent weeks causing more of a challenge to the businesses.

“The price of shrimp fluctuates so much these days,” Godwin said. “We have seen prices go up by 40 percent or more in the past two weeks. That makes is more of a challenge for us in the business.

Godwin said they are still selling domestic shrimp at David’s he added his shrimp are coming off the east coast.

“Shrimp and oyster sales are down but they would not sale to us if something was wrong with them,” he said. “I think all this has people just scared right now.”

Faircloth said the price fluctuation has caused prices to creep up a little on the menu.

“We have had to increase our prices just a little,” Faircloth said. “We have tried to keep our prices so that a family can still come in an enjoy a good meal. We’ve raised the prices but not enough to recoup the cost of what we have to pay. We want to be good to our loyal customers and keep things as comfortable for them as possible.”

Although there may be some questions about the future of shrimp and oysters in the seafood industry, Faircloth said they are keeping their hopes up for a continued supply.

“We wake up nervous every day,” Faircloth said. “Seafood is 50 percent of our menu so wondering about where we will get it certainly makes us nervous. But we are optimistic and keep hoping for a better future.”