Seafood industry stays positive in spill's wake

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - It almost looks like business as usual at the Crystal Seas Oyster plant in Pass Christian, one year after the BP oil crisis began. The company has come a long way from those harrowing days in 2010.

"We were all very nervous if we would have a business left," Crystal Seas General Manager Jennifer Jenkins said.

Crystal Seas closed in June because oysters were scarce, if not unavailable in the Gulf of Mexico, and everyone was wondering if the oyster crop would ever recover.

"We reopened on November second," Jenkins said. "That's when things started to look up."

At that point Crystal Seas turned to Texas for oysters, but uncertainty ruled the day then and still does today.

"Our big fear is the long term future," Jenkins said.

"The last year has been bad," Sean Desporte said. "The perception is what is hurting. People are still scared to buy seafood."

The Desporte family has been in the seafood business for 115 years. During the 2010 disaster they took shrimp wherever they could find it.

"At the height of the crisis we bought imports. We could not get any local shrimp," Desporte said.

Desporte and others in the industry are forever hopeful. They seem to see light at the end of the tunnel.

"Now we're seeing shrimp come in, I'm positive," Desporte said. "I'm looking for people to come in and buy seafood."

At the Pass Christian Harbor, shrimpers are waiting for the 2011 season. Oystermen are waiting to get back to work. The industry continues to fight the perception battle, but the South Mississippi seafood industry thinks science and nature are on their side.

"The seafood has been tested extensively. We have not seen any evidence of anything to make us nervous. The last thing we want to do is sell a dangerous product," Jenkins said.

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