As Oil Threat Creeps Closer, a Rush on Seafood

Margie Scheuermann, who has lived here for 78 years, went over her list as she waited in line Tuesday to buy local seafood at the Crescent City Farmers Market: a pair of soft-shell crabs, a pound of lump crab meat and five pounds of unpeeled white gulf shrimp.

“This could all be gone next week,” she said. “And if we don’t get fresh seafood, what are we going to do? You can’t cook.”

In good times and bad, New Orleans has always had a talent for living for the moment. So with oil from a gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico looming offshore, people here are buying and eating as much seafood as they can as fast as they can. At last Saturday’s farmers’ market, an entire load of 350 pounds of fresh shrimp, at $5 a pound, sold out in an hour.

At the P & J Oyster Company, one of the nation’s oldest oyster processors, a researcher at Louisiana State University who is studying the effect of oyster proteins on cancer cell growth called to order 25 pounds, just in case.

“You’ve got people who are scared and skeptical and want to wait it out, and people who are trying to load up,” said Al Sunseri, president of P & J.

He has not raised his prices yet, he said. But with some of his suppliers already out of stock, he knows it is just a matter of time.

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