Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

BP Oil Spill Poses Growing Worry for US Seafood Restaurants

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

BP Oil Spill Poses Growing Worry for US Seafood Restaurants

Article excerpt

Seafood restaurants and others are tracking the BP oil spill and trying to glean just how much impact it will have on menu prices and consumer perception.

Outside the Gulf of Mexico, where the BP oil spill besets the coastal states, the US seafood industry is bracing for a crisis that is not connected to a region but to a perception: that any seafood, no matter where its origins, may be contaminated by oil.

Far north of the Gulf, restaurant owners and wholesalers are tracking where the oil slick is traveling and trying to glean just how much impact it will have on menu prices and consumer perception. There are already reports of tar balls and oily substances in the Florida Keys, and worries are rising that this summer's hurricane season will push the oil around Florida's southern tip, where it could enter the Gulf Stream and head north to the fishing grounds off the mid-Atlantic coast.

Jim Filip, owner of Doris & Ed's, a 90-seat seafood restaurant in Highlands, N.J., is tracking the oil's path via computer projections he finds on the Internet. He stopped buying seafood from the Gulf four weeks ago, not because he believes it is tainted, but because he doesn't want to lie to customers who are now asking about the origin of his shrimp and oysters.

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Mr. Filip worries about the ways the oil spill threatens his business: how high seafood prices may rise and how long it will take the oil-ruined oyster beds in the Gulf to be clean again.

"I can't think of anything worse. We don't know where [the oil slick] is going to go and what it's going to do to you. It's a waiting game," he says.

For restaurants far outside the Gulf, what is known is that customers are concerned. Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded 40 miles off the Louisiana coast and sent oil into fertile fishing areas, restaurateurs are working to assuage the fears of worried diners about where their food is coming from.

"They ask us if the fish is from where the oil is. …

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