(Bloomberg) -- Shrimp fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico were docking ships and tying down equipment as Tropical Storm Barry strengthened while heading to the Louisiana coast.
The storm is likely to disrupt fresh catches of shrimp for a day or more, C. David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association in Biloxi, Mississippi, said on Friday. The association represents about 75% of fresh shrimp packers in the Gulf. As much as 120 million pounds (54,000 metric tons) of shrimp are caught each year of the U.S. coast.
“It certainly causes dislocation, and preparation always takes a day out of business because employees have to prepare, too,” Veal said by telephone. “Then, there’s the constant worry if freezers go out.”
Many processors, retailers and restaurants have ample supplies of shrimp and other seafood in freezers. Those supplies would be threatened by a sustained power outage. Freshly caught American shrimp makes up 6% to 8% of total U.S. demand, with the bulk of consumption supplied by imported farmed seafood, Veal said.
As shrimping grinds to a halt, seafood joints are also shuttering.
David Chauvin’s Seafood Company, based in Dulac, Louisiana, said on its Facebook page that it would be closed on Friday and Saturday due to the storm, as would Kim’s Shuga Shack and Bluewater Shrimp Co.
“We want the folks that work for us to have time to get things ready at their own homes. We look forward to seeing y’all soon,” the seafood company said in the post. No one answered the phone at a number listed for the business on Friday.
For some fisherman, the storm might provide a small silver lining in the form of better conditions for a big catch. Heavy winds can mix waters around, prompting shrimp to concentrate in different areas.
Brown shrimp that are now in season may be attracted to the salty waters that blow closer to the shore, where they mix with fresh waters flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi River.
“Brown shrimp like higher salinity,” Veal said. “It’s not a definitive thing, but typically we see improved fishing, just from mixing waters.”
--With assistance from Shruti Date Singh.
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