BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The sign by the kitchen at Burger-Burger proclaims that the Biloxi restaurant is a proud server of U.S. farm-raised catfish. The restaurant sells between two to three cases of catfish a week. But lately, enjoying this southern favorite has come at a higher cost.
"Since December, it's gone up dramatically, and we do catfish every Friday," said owner Martha Ebberman. "Now that we started this new menu, we also have catfish baskets. But people don't understand how when this catfish goes up, we have to go up on our prices."
The owner of Desporte and Sons Seafood in Biloxi has noticed more restaurants and seafood lovers are turning to imported catfish and other types of locally-caught fish to satisfy their cravings. Prices have almost doubled from $3.00 a pound to as much as $6.00 a pound for the Mississippi variety.
"I don't have a lot of restaurants using it. Of 50 to 75 restaurants that we sell to, I can count on one or two hands how many restaurants are using it now because of the price increase," said owner Sean Desporte.
Desporte blames the jump in price on higher feed and energy costs.
"It's hurting tremendously because of the price of food and power and everything else," said Desporte. "And the cold weather this year slowed it down a lot. They couldn't produce as many fish as quick."
Now, there's a lot of fear and uncertainty as the swollen Mississippi River threatens to flood catfish farms.
"It could make it even worse, because if it floods the Delta and they're not able to produce the fish, then it's also going to increase the price even more," said Desporte.
Martha Ebberman wants to keep catfish on her menu at Burger-Burger. She said some customers are willing to pay the price, but for how long?
"I hope as long as we can get it and we don't have to pay an exorbitant amount of price on it, we'll be able to keep it," said Ebberman. "We have tried all different brands, and the one that we carry right now is the best. I don't know what we'll do. I really don't. Just time will tell."
There's also concern that the flood waters could affect other types of sea life. If so, that means you may have to shell out more for shrimp, crawfish and crabs.