Warmer temps should help crawfish industry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010



LAPLACE – The lengthy period of cold winter weather across southeast Louisiana made for a troubling start to the crawfish sea son, but as temperatures begin to rise farmers and retailers are starting to see a slight rebound.

“Weather like we experienced in January and February really puts a clamp on crawfish movement and development,” said LSU aquaculture professor Dr. Greg Lutz. “If they don’t move they don’t eat and don’t grow.”

Lutz said this winter brought the lowest average temperatures to crawfish country since Hurricane Katrina, with lows of more than 4 to 6 degrees cooler than average. He said the recent warm up has allowed for some movement in the crawfish population, but he added that it is hard to predict what the next few weeks will bring.

“There are not many good indicators of what is in the pipeline when it comes to growth and harvesting,” Lutz said. “Farmers can only do so much. We need the crawfish to cooperate, too.”

The dismal early harvest sent crawfish prices soaring to more than $3 a pound for live sacks, but many local retailers say they are now beginning to see a bit of a drop off.

Greta Duhe of BRS Seafood in Reserve said prices for live crawfish have dropped to $2.79 a pound after starting the season at $3.50.

“The price is still high compared to last year, so it could be better,” Duhe said. “But any drop in price is beneficial. It all depends on how the weather turns out in the next few weeks.”

Winston Doussan, manager at Just-N-Time Seafood in LaPlace, where live crawfish is selling at $2.75 a pound, said the combination of poor weather and a sluggish economy has kept crawfish sales down compared to this time last year.

“I think there is a lot less demand this year,” Doussan said. “People are finding it hard to shell out that kind of money right now, and I can understand why.”

Doussan said a further complication is the increased popularity of crawfish in other parts of the country.

“A good percentage of Louisiana crawfish is getting sent out to places like Houston and Florida and other parts of the nation,” Doussan said. “They are paying a higher price to get them, but it is starting to become a more frequent occurrence.”

Lutz said the outlook for the coming weeks looks promising as temperatures begin to warm further. He said many farmers are beginning to flood their fields in the hopes of ending the season on a high note.

“As long as the sun continues to shine and warm the waters across the region, we should see better development and bigger harvests,” Lutz said. “We may see another drop in prices before Easter, but it all depends on Mother Nature.”ï¿¿