Eddie Kurtich knows oysters, and he’s worried. The owner of Eddie’s Quality Oysters, Inc., he’s been eating Louisiana oysters since he came here from Croatia 50 years ago. He likes them grilled or sautéed in a little wine and olive oil; raw oysters he enjoys only when they’re really salty. But now the beds are closed, and some of the oysters are dying. Instead of running a bustling business, Eddie sits at his desk preparing his claims for BP, documenting losses for each interminable month that the crisis goes on.
Eddie got into oysters by chance when he married in the 1960s. His wife’s uncle had a convenient store in Port Sulfur and there was an oyster-shucking shop next door. Eddie eventually got both, but when traffic through the town slowed with the decline in demand for sulfur, Eddie closed the store and built up the oyster business, from shucking and retail to wholesale and shipping out of state.
The degradation to the coast before the spill was already affecting the oysters, Eddie says, and the restoration projects are too little and way too late. “Oysters need current to feed,” he explains, ruminating on the crustaceans of the past when the vast marshland and bayous provided prime habitat. No one knows for certain why the oysters are dying now, but Eddie thinks they are being dealt a triple blow from the possibly toxic dispersants, the sand berms restricting the gulf’s flow, and the loss of oxygen in the water from the oil.
With the future uncertain for Eddie and the oysters, he’s stuck in limbo, “I’m 66. I’ve done this or so long. I didn’t learn to fish, hunt or play golf,” he says, looking down at the mound of paperwork. For those not out on the water helping with the clean up, there’s not much else to do. “I hear even the strip clubs are filing claims,” he says.