Gulf oil spill isn't keeping most seafood off the menu

At the Carioto Produce and Seafood warehouse in Green Island, N.Y., shrimp from India and Vietnam stock the freezer, while a refrigerated aisle is stacked with bags of clams from Rhode Island, cockles from New Zealand, a fresh 5-pound fillet of lane snapper from Nicaragua and mahi-mahi from Ecuador.

The Gulf may be soiled with oil, but Al Hecker, Carioto's seafood specialist, has had little trouble getting what he needs in a global market — even for Gulf staples like snapper and mahi-mahi.

"My supply hasn't diminished; I've just stepped sideways," said Hecker.

Oil gushing into the Gulf has devastated Louisiana's fishing industry and spiked prices for oysters and some other items, but it has yet to create menu-wide seafood shortages.

That's largely because about 17 percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from domestic sources, and just a bit more than 2 percent of that comes from the Gulf, according to the National Fisheries Institute, a trade group.

"You can duplicate some of those items," said Rick Groomer, co-owner of Groomer Seafood, a San Antonio-based wholesaler and distributor. "If I don't buy red snapper out of Louisiana, I can buy it out of Mexico or out of the Caribbean."

Not everything can be swapped out easily, most notably oysters. Though oysters represent a modest share of the overall seafood market compared to big sellers like salmon or tuna, more than 60 percent of oysters eaten by Americans come from the Gulf. Oysters are rarely imported because of the high cost and tough U.S. sanitary regulations.