PUNTA GORDA, Florida — Florida is known for its fishing, but some of the bite in the Gulf is affected by overfishing.
According to NOAA’s Fish Stocks Report, four local fish in southwest Florida are listed as threatened. But that hasn’t stopped the Punta Gorda Seafood Festival this year.
“We’ve got crab, we’ve got shrimp, lobster – you name it, we’ve got it!”
On the beautiful shores of Laishley Park, the food is cooking.
“Punta Gorda is just a really beautiful area,” says Ron Soto, chief financial officer of Paragon Festivals. “First of all, we’re here on the river, you have the Gulf of Mexico right there, that says seafood! So come, enjoy and have a bite to eat.
Some of those offering a little nibble were those with HammerHeads restoration.
“The only advice I’ll give you is that if you can’t see it prepared in front of you, it could be compromised,” says HammerHeads co-owner Sandy Thomas. “I mean, what makes ours good is that we cook it fresh, little by little and often throughout the day.
One of HammerHeads signature items is none other than their shrimp and grits.
“It can change in a minute, I mean, it’s definitely possible,” says Thomas. “One day the bouillabaisse sells out and the next it doesn’t so we cook less and then everyone wants it. So basically everything is based on demand.”
Supply and demand that seem to be even more instrumental than ever. As certain restrictions exist on what can and cannot be caught.
“There are now all kinds of laws that protect these fish,” Soto says. “But yes, when the groupers were like that, now they are a bit like that. But everything is fine.”
It may change what the chefs serve, but it certainly didn’t spoil the spirit of the clientele.
“I mean when you’re dealing with a lot of good fish, it’s very expensive to buy and if people don’t buy it, you end up throwing it away,” Thomas said. “So I prefer to stick with something I know people are going to buy and want.
“And that’s the shrimp and grits?”
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “Shrimp and grits all day.”