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NELA restaurants hurt by oyster shortage

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 10:16 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The Louisiana Department of Health announced on September 27th that all of the state’s 28 oyster beds are safe for harvesting. This comes nearly a month after Hurricane Ida devastated Louisiana’s coast. For some restaurants in Northeast Louisiana, the announcement is welcome news.

“We were able to find oysters from Alabama and Texas for about a week,” explained Luke Parrish, the owner of Claw Daddy’s Crawfish and Oyster Bar in Monroe.

However, considering Louisiana is the largest oyster supplier in the United States, supply in other states quickly ran out. Parrish says he did not have oysters on his menu for nearly three weeks.

“Our sales are down about 60% just due to not being able to get those half-shells,” said Parrish.

The Louisiana Department of Health says they’re forced to close harvesting beds for a couple of days after significant storms because runoff water can cause oysters to be unsafe to eat.

“Those contain natural pollutants from humans, vehicles, oil and gas, things like that,” said Justin Gremillion, Chief Sanitarian for LDH. “When that surge comes down, it can drag that pollution back into the oyster harvesting waters.”

Gremillion added that waters get tested every day to ensure they are opened as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We will go out into those harvest waters, collect samples and test them for specific bacteria that will indicate pollution,” Germillion told KNOE.

With sales down 60%, Parrish couldn’t wait for oyster harvesting to return to normal. He decided to make up for lost sales, he would add chicken wings to his menu. Parrish said Claw Daddy’s already had the equipment to make the transition.

“We knew we could do it quickly, advertise it, and generate some revenue quickly,” said Parrish.

Parrish says, for now, they will take however many oysters they can get.

“We buy about 11,000 oysters a week,” said Parrish. “They called this week and said we have about six for you, so we picked those up.”

With all harvesting beds open for business, Parrish says he should be able to get all the oysters he needs starting next week.

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