Crawfish scarce for season
Customers can expect to pay more this year. Claire Taylor
Crawfish are in short supply and more expensive this season because of the effects of a drought, two hurricanes and poor water quality, said David Savoy, president of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association. “Right now, it doesn’t look really well,” he said of the winter pond crawfish crop. “You’ve lost basically all of Vermilion Parish with salt water.”
Hurricane Rita, which hit southwest Louisiana in September with a salty storm surge, affected several thousand acres of crawfish production in lower Vermilion Parish, as well as Iberia and St. Mary parishes, said Mark Shirley, county agent with the LSU Ag Center. “We don’t expect to have any crawfish this year,” said Charles Broussard of Flying J Ranch in the Vermilion Parish community of Forked Island. The storm surge contained so much salt that it left a coat of white on his fields when the water finally receded, Broussard said.
Before Hurricane Katrina hit South Louisiana in August, crawfish farmers were dealing with a drought, which required that they pump more water into ponds to provide a habitat for the crawfish, Savoy said. But after Katrina and Rita, fuel was in short supply, which delayed farmers’ ability to flood their ponds, postponing the season. Some crawfish suffered when Rita’s salt water storm surge flooded their fields. The organic material, like leaves, blown into ponds used up the oxygen some crawfish needed.
“That caused mortality in some of the mamas that burrowed down,” David Savoy said. “There are very, very few crawfish out there.” In the harsh conditions, female crawfish who were carrying their young on their tails flicked them off in order to survive themselves, said Stephen Minvielle, chairman of the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion Board. One female can carry 100 to 700 young.
“One female in good health is a sack of crawfish,” he said. Even crawfish farmers not directly hit by Hurricane Rita report problems with poor water quality and a drought.
Lack of rainfall and cold weather have left Catahoula crawfish farmer Roy Savoy with a late season. Last year he started catching crawfish in November. “We’ve got our traps out, but it doesn’t look good,” he said. “The few they have in the trap, four to five per trap, they’re some nice crawfish, but they’re not plentiful.”
Not all crawfish farmers are suffering. In Jefferson Davis Parish north of Interstate 10, Tony Godeaux of Quality Crawfish has been harvesting crawfish since Dec. 5. He’s harvesting about 400 acres a day, producing 20-30 sacks per day. “That’s almost on track for where it was this time last year,” he said. “The crawfish are actually there, they’re just not feeding because of the cold water temperatures.”
Prices are good for farmers producing a crawfish crop, Godeaux said. Consumers will pay more, but farmers need to charge more to recoup increased fuel prices, he said. The bottom line: Crawfish are available, but consumers can expect to pay.
“There is crawfish in the marketplace,” Minvielle said. “There are very few and they are expensive, unfortunately.” Originally published December 13, 2005