Hurricane Isaac cuts off Baltimore's jumbo crab supply

With holiday demand high, local restaurants are serving mostly medium-size local blue crabs instead

(Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
September 02, 2012|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

Marylanders looking to pile their picnic tables with crabs for one last send-off to summer this Labor Day will likely have to do so with a less-than-jumbo variety of the state's favorite crustacean, thanks to Hurricane Isaac.

The storm that tore through Louisiana last week did significant damage to Gulf Coast docks and roads, disrupting a regular supply to Maryland — and elsewhere — of the jumbo and large crabs that, for a variety of reasons, aren't being harvested locally this season.

"Normally we'll have plenty of the large and jumbo, but … I think all of [Saturday] we may have gotten 30 large ones in total for the day, when normally we'll get like 200-plus," said Kim Gardner, a manager at L.P. Steamer's in Locust Point.

"We have plenty of crabs; we're not going to run out, but there's not going to be any jumbo crabs," said Dan Donnelly, general manager of Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn near Annapolis, whose regular Louisiana suppliers had three docks destroyed and haven't shipped crabs north since Thursday.

Across the Baltimore region, crab-house owners said they were dealing with the same problem.

This year's crab harvest in Maryland and Delaware waters has produced mostly medium-size crabs, they said, which are selling well but don't satisfy everyone.

"Customers are getting irate because they can't get the size they want," said Trey Bernhardt, owner of Captain Trey's Crabs & Seafood in Cockeysville, whose regular Louisiana supply stopped Tuesday.

The shortage has affected crab houses that don't buy from the Gulf Coast as well, because the demand for local crabs has jumped, said George Tserkis, general manager of Captain James Landing on Boston Street in Baltimore.

Despite not having jumbo crabs, Gardner said, L.P. Steamer's was having a much better Labor Day weekend than last year, when the Grand Prix killed business.

"This year is a whole lot better than last year," she said.

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