CROWLEY – With crawfish season in full swing, mixed with the beginning of the Lenten season, consumers may find prices of these beloved mudbugs a little steep.
According to reports from the LSU AgCenter, the production of crawfish this year as compared to last is down by half, due to poor pond conditions caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike, as well as a drought that was suffered last year.
Representatives from the AgCenter say that debris from the hurricane and grass that remained in many of the ponds sucked up oxygen, causing the crawfish to choke.
Crawfish and all other organisms in the ponds require oxygen to live, while low oxygen levels slow the growth of young crawfish and kill them in large numbers. Many farmers have decided to use their ponds for rice instead of crawfish if conditions don’t improve soon.
Crawfish thrive in the abundant backwater habitat of the Mississippi River floodplains. Sustained periods of river overflow allow the crawfish to feed, grow and mature. Temporary de-watering of their natural habitat produces aeration of bottom sediments, reduces the abundance of aquatic predators and allows for the establishment of vegetation, which covers crawfish and food resources when flooded.
These mudbugs survive dry intervals by retreating into borrows where they can avoid predators and acquire the necessary moisture for survival, as well as serving as a place for reproduction.
Crawfish farmers and those in the restaurant industry remain hopeful despite the slow start of the 2009 season.
“We’re lucky because some of the other restaurants are closing down due to the shortage,” he said. “We still have crawfish but unfortunately we have to keep the prices up until the supply is back up. Also, we’re lucky because we still have our shrimp and crabs to fall back on as well,” said Dean Harris of the newly opened Cravin’ Crawfish, optimistically.