Saving Louisiana oysters
BATON ROUGE - The oyster industry is still recovering from the BP oil spill The men and women who work the coast are pushing hard to keep the jewel of Louisiana seafood viable.
Oysters play a pivotal role on the coast.
"For over 150 years, the oystermen have been putting back into that ecology and generating the reef structure," Sal Sunseri from P&J Oyster Company explains. "that...encourages the growth of the nurseries for all other species."
According to Drago's owner Tommy Cvitanovich, the current oysters pulled from Louisiana waters are fantastic.
"Our oysters are as good or better than they've ever been," he boasted. "They're unbelievable."
Cvitanovich has a dedicated crew of suppliers that help him keep up with the demand of the 400 million charbroiled oyesters he sells each year, plus more when you add in raw oysters. Keeping the shuckers hands full has been a challenge since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
"A lot of oysters were killed, not because of the oil, but because of the fresh water that was released that kept the oil off our coastlines," he told News 2's Rob Kreiger. "All that freshwater...was the kiss of death for oysters."
Since the spill, millions of sacks of oysters harvested from public waters virtually vanished. A supply that once made up about 40% of hte produce sold at places like P&J now only makes up a fraction of the catch. It's why people who make a living off the coast are recycling shucked shells.
"Nothing will re-grow or regenerate an oyster bed or let an oyster grow faster than actual oyster shells in the water," Cvitanovich says. " So number one, we're rebuilding the coastline, number two we're rebuilding the oyster beds to give us more oysters in the future."
It's just one method that will help the oil industry survive.
"We're hopeful that we'll be able to keep this thing going for another 139 years, nut right now we're going to have to rely on a possible hatchery system, similar to what the east coast and west coast have worked on for decades," Sunseri opines.
Here in the South, the taste of Louisiana waters could keep the pearl of the coast alive for centuries to come.
The price of oysters has risen by as much as 300% for suppliers. Customers likely won't feel that burn. Restaurants are doing what they can to keep prices stable, including selling them at a loss.