Gulf tragedy could be business boon for local shellfish growers



Posted on May 18, 2010 at 10:43 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The tragedy in the Gulf could mean a boon for business for shellfish growers in Washington state. But some doubt they could meet the demand.

Mathew Bulldis, co-owner of Olympia's National Fish and Oyster Farm, says he already got a call asking if he could handle a big order that would head to the southeast part of the country.

"They were talking some pretty big quantities: Can you do a truckload of oysters a week? Huge," says Bulldis.

Taylor Shellfish Farms of Shelton is fielding even more calls for orders.

"Individual oyster bars and restaurants, typically we'd sell to wholesalers that would then distribute to those businesses," says Bill Dewey, Taylor Shellfish Farms spokesman.

Much of problem for shellfish producers in the Gulf is public perception. Fears of contaminated seafood can cripple their business, regardless if the oysters are safe or not.

"It's really gut-wrenching," Dewey says, hearing the stories from his business counterparts in the southeast part of the country.

With Louisiana being the top oyster producing state in the country, that void would be hard to fill.

"What we have out there right now is what we planted two or four years ago, we can't go plant of them because of this oil spill and expect to be able to respond to the demand," explains Dewey.

At National Fish and Oyster Company, Bulldis remembers his prices went up about 30 percent after Hurricane Katrina. While the business would be welcome, it would be bittersweet.

"You hate to see it impact those guys down there. Boy, I hope they can get it under control," says Bulldis.