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Oyster customers shell out more money

WASHINGTON - State prices soar after hurricanes devastate Gulf Coast harvests.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have forced Washington oyster prices up between 30 percent and 50 percent, growers and their customers say.

As the storms wreaked havoc on the Southeast, they destroyed harvesting areas that supply 40 percent of the U.S. oyster market.

Even before the hurricanes tore through the Gulf Coast, demand for half-shell oysters was high. Now, it is even higher, said Robin Downey, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Based in Olympia, the organization represents 120 grower members from Alaska to California.

"One grower was literally looking under rocks for oysters before Katrina," she said. "My understanding is that we can't even begin to address the demand."

Source: The Olympian