canada africa partner reservation Will Louisiana’s crawfish season end early? What to know. | Environment

Will Louisiana’s crawfish season end early? What to know. | Environment

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Any Louisiana seafood lover will agree: The 2024 crawfish season has been far from normal.

As farmers battled drought and saltwater intrusion in the fall, mudbug prices have remained higher than average for most of the season, and yields have been significantly smaller for many in the fishing industry.

What does all this mean for the end of the season? Will prices remain as low as they are now, or will the crawfish run out prematurely?

The answer, experts say, varies depending on a wide range of factors, from location to simple economics.

Although overall, the effects of a poor start to the season are likely still being felt by many, even as the end of the season begins to feel more normal.

Here’s what to expect as crawfish season comes to an end.

Crawfish landings in Louisiana

Experts like Greg Lutz, aquaculture extension specialist at the LSU Ag Center, predict that some farmers in southern Louisiana will soon run out of crawfish.

Don Benoit, owner of D&T Crawfish in Abbeville, said he saw only 30% of his normal output in April. That result was still better than he initially expected in March, when Benoit feared he would be without one before the summer.

Still, it’s not likely we’ll see an abrupt stop in crawfish availability, said Todd Fontenot, crawfish agent at the LSU Ag Center.

Crawfish farmers in most southern parts of the state were hit harder by the drought and saltwater intrusion than some of their counterparts in the north, according to Fontenot. As a result, farmers in areas like Rapides Parish saw fewer declines in their yields and experienced a season closer to normal levels.

The further you travel in Louisiana, the later the crawfish season begins and ends.

That’s why there was such a scarcity of crawfish and such extraordinary prices at the beginning of the season, because the farmers who can usually start harvesting the earliest were hit the hardest.

Wild crawfish in the Atchafalaya River basin have boosted the supply of Benoit, which distributes and processes crawfish.

However, wild-caught crawfish have yet to provide a significant boost to the overall crawfish market, Fontenot and Lutz agree.

According to Lutz, water levels in the watershed have not been high enough to flood the area and allow the crawfish to emerge from their holes.

Lutz says wild crawfish are also likely affected by the drought.

Economics at play

Ultimately, how long crawfish will remain available all depends on the economy.

Many farmers and distributors are already selling at very slim profit margins, Lutz said, as they try to recoup some of the extra costs from the poor start to the season.

As prices continue to drop and fishermen can no longer catch as many crawfish in their traps, there is ultimately no point in continuing.

“It just needs to go down a little bit more and it literally won’t make economic sense for these guys to run their traps,” Lutz said, “which is what caused our problem at the beginning of the season.”

What about the next crawfish season?

As the season draws to a close, farmers should also prepare for 2025 and purchase mature specimens to fill their ponds.

According to Fontenot, stocking fish usually increases prices as farmers looking for live adults compete with other distributors for the crawfish available at the time.

To initiate stocking, rice crops growing in ponds must be plentiful and healthy for the new crawfish. Fontenot said ponds aren’t quite there yet in Louisiana.

Where the prices are

Prices for boiled and live crawfish still vary by week and by area.

You can search for crawfish prices at local restaurants using the Crawfish app, which updates prices every Friday.

Here’s a look at boiled crawfish prices in various Louisiana cities as of early May:

New Orleans

Prices in New Orleans range from about $3 to $8 per pound, with an average of $5 per pound.

Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge prices range from $4 to $8 per pound. A majority of seafood restaurants sold boiled crawfish for about $6 per pound.

Lafayette

In Lafayette, $5 to $6 per pound seemed to be the average price, although prices range from $4 to $9 per pound.

Shreveport

Average prices in Shreveport were $5 to $6 per pound.