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Will The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Impact San Diego's Fishing Industry?

Will The Gulf Coast Oil Spill Impact San Diego's Fishing Industry?

GLORIA PENNER (Host): The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has left many fisherman in that region sidelined. KPBS reporter Katie Orr wanted to find out if the local fishing industry was benefiting from the gulf's environmental disaster. She brings us this report.

KATIE ORR (KPBS Reporter): San Diego's Chesapeake Fish Co. handles about 11 million pounds of fresh and frozen seafood every year.

STEVE FOLTZ (Chesapeake Fish Co.): We have the yellow tail, California halibut, the swordfish when it's in season. June 16 is the white sea bass opener up in Santa Barbara in the Ventura area. That'll go for about two months and then kind of go away. We have spiny lobster fishermen here during the winter months, October through March. And then, also, the sea urchin divers who are pretty much all year round.


ORR: But so far the company hasn't seen a boost in business because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Chesapeake's Steve Foltz says that's because the types of seafood available there are different from the fish here.

FOLTZ: What the folks in the Midwest that are used to buying that fish, and even the locals down there, the local distribution processors and wholesalers. They're saying, hey, I'm going to call Texas. I'm going to call Florida. Other ports out of the Gulf of Mexico to try to find those species. If they can't, then they'll probably call us and call up and down the West Coast, East Coast, and other parts of the world and substitute those species with other species.

ORR: Foltz says Chesapeake does buy seafood from other parts of the country. But he says one of their primary goals is to get locally caught fish into the market. He says an oil spill here would be just as devastating as the spill in the Gulf.

FOLTZ: You wouldn't be able to go to those fishing grounds where you normally would be fishing to find whatever white sea bass or halibut or whatever fish they were capturing there. So they'd either need to go up north, maybe to Central California or Northern California.

ORR: Foltz says San Diego's fishing industry has declined over the years. But he says it's still a sleeping giant with an economic ripple effect that spreads across the country.