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By A.B. Sidibe
Special to the Citizen
The dearth of oysters just a little more than a month into the season has yet to trickle down to consumers, but if the scarcity persists diners will feel the pinch soon.
Local coastal seafood businesses already have noticed slight increases in the prices of oysters.
Marie Price of Charlie’s Fish House in Crystal River said they have noticed a rise in the past month.
“It has gone from $12.99 a pint to $14.99 a pint,” Price said. “So we are keeping an eye on it, but unless they go back to the way things were, I think it will only get more expensive.”
She said though Charlie’s restaurant has not made any changes to its menu prices yet, things could change in the future.
William Bunch, owner of Oysters Restaurant in Crystal River, said his supplies are coming in uninterrupted.
Bunch, however, said he has noticed subtle changes.
The oysters used to come opened, but no longer are and the price for a box jumped from $18 to the low $20s.
“But, so far so good. We continue to offer it and we are getting our supplies,” Bunch said.
“We have to have it since our restaurant has the same name, but I am willing to clean them, shuck them, whatever, as long as they keep coming,” he said.
Bunch said if the poor harvest continues and prices keep going up, he also would have to look at adjusting his prices accordingly, “but we are not there yet.”
Sandy Stone, owner of Sandy’s Produce and who sells fresh oysters at the corner of County Road 24 and Wooten Avenue in Cedar Key, said her proximity to the harvesters is helping keep her stocked.
“The oysters are not as plentiful as they used to be, but I get what I need,” she said.
Maryann Beckham, manager at Seabreeze Restaurant, one of the Gulf-front eateries in Cedar Key, said she has never seen the oyster harvest this poor in more than the four decades she has lived there.
“We are getting supplies right now, but it is scary what could happen in the future,” she said. “People depend on oysters around here.”