Mother Nature to blame for higher shrimp, crab prices

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana hasn't seen the last of those cold winter temperatures. Mother Nature is having an effect on seafood in the state. Crawfish season was delayed by two months and now shrimp and crab season is also behind. Prices for both are some of the highest they've been since the 1970's.

"Never seen prices for shrimp this high, ever," said Bill Pizzolato, owner of Tony's Seafood in Baton Rouge.

His price, for jumbo shrimp with the head on, is $11.99 a pound. Peeled shrimp is $8.99 a pound.

One reason for the high prices, some say, is because of the lack of imported shrimp.

"The southeast Asian market produce farm raised shrimp and flood the markets here. Kind of keeps the prices down," said Randy Pausina, Assistant Secretary with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

A virus in the Asian ponds kept much of that shrimp from reaching the United States market this season.

Pizzolato says the shortage of imported shrimp this year caused more local boats to take more shrimp from area waters.

"Made everybody flock to our Gulf of Mexico and pull all the shrimp which created a shortage and caused a lot of high pricing," he said.

And a shortage, not just in Louisiana but all around the country.

The issue of imported shrimp is a double edged sword.

Pausina says about 90% of the shrimp sold in the U.S. are imported. While letting those shrimp come in may help push down prices, shrimpers don't want the price to get too low.

"Been fighting in Congress, in Washington, to limit that. Put tariffs to control it because that's what really controls the price," Pausina said.

Pizzolato says the price is slowly dropping, but only by nickels and dimes at a time. He says usually it drops by 50 cents to $1.00 a pound.

He added it may take another season for everything to return to normal, especially with inventory so low right now.

That hasn't stopped people from buying the seafood they love. It just means supply has to catch up with demand.

"Starting off slow. A lot of big, big shrimp and it's just going to take some time to recover," Pizzolato said.

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