BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The cost of seafood is going up at Alabama restaurants and fish markets as rising fuel prices make it more expensive to bring products up from the gulf coast.
Some area eateries have already had to change menu prices multiple times over the past year in order to keep up with inflation and transportation costs.
At The Fish Market Restaurant in Birmingham, owner George Sarris said he’s paying more than double for the cost of red snapper, an Alabama favorite.
“In 2021, say for snapper, We pay about $s5.30, whole fish, come from the coast, right now it is 11.95,” said Sarris.
For nearly 40 years, Sarris has been serving up some of the most sought after seafood in the Magic City, but has never seen prices so high.
“This year, if it goes like that, we are going to make no money, which is fine. We are blessed. We are going to keep our doors open. But what is it going to do to the other restaurants that haven’t been here for 30 years?” Sarris asked.
There’s a lot that goes into the price of the fresh catch. At Capeside Fish Company and Market in Rainbow City, co-owner Dennis Deason and his son make weekly runs in search of the products his customers are hooked on.
“We’re actually headed to the gulf coast. We’re headed to Biloxi. We’ll start there and going to pick up some red snapper today, and then going to head to Louisiana to get some crawfish then back to Bayou La Batre for oysters,” said Deason.
Deason’s son also drives to the Carolina coast to buy and sell fish.
“By the time we go east coast to gulf coast and back, we are spending thousands of dollars extra per week and it adds up,” said Deason.
At more than $5.50 per gallon, diesel fuels more than Deason’s 26 foot truck that he packs as full as he can. The fuel also helps keep products cold.
“When it gets hot like it is today, the refrigeration is running harder and it is burning diesel as well,” said Deason.
After restaurants already struggled through the pandemic, now owners are forced to pass rising costs to customers without making items too expensive.
“Certain clientele will pay that but you are also eliminating a large part of your customer base that simply can’t afford to pay that for food,” said Deason.
At The Fish Market Restaurant in Birmingham, Sarris brings in food from as far as Miami and Boston. He isn’t sure if or when prices will stabilize, but also believes greed is part of the problem.
“The almighty dollar it become our God a little bit and we have become greedy as a nation,” said Sarris.
Deason said rising fuel prices have also limited some fisherman and oystercatchers from doing normal business, citing a text from one of his suppliers on the coast
“Half of its oysterman decided not to fish anymore the harvest was so low they couldn’t offset the increase in fuel prices and the same thing is happening with crab and shrimp and red snapper,” said Deason.