FOX NEWS: Louisiana drought, cold weather could make crawfish harvest worst on record
Crawfish lovers may be paying high prices this season, if they can even find the delicacy at all.
Scarcity is being blamed on drought and other weather impacts, causing many seafood suppliers and restaurants to announce delays.
"It’s going to be the worst season ever," Louisiana State University AgCenter crawfish specialist Mark Shirley told Louisiana Radio Network. "The population is just not there. The buyers are offering $7 and $8 a pound to the fishermen just to try to get them to go out and bait traps and go find them. It could be whatever price, they’re just not there."
Crawfish, often referred to as mudbugs or crayfish, are tiny freshwater crustaceans that taste similar to lobster and shrimp. They are big business in Louisiana, where Shirley says 361,000 acres should be in production, but drought stopped farmers from flooding their fields.
Heat was blamed for impacting crops during the growing months, and recent cold has been accused of impacting the harvest.
"The mud from May through July was often too dry for the crawfish to burrow down in, and many of them died or their growth was stunted," food website Eater Houston reports. "Now many farmers are waiting for the population to recover, but predictions of cold snaps in Louisiana this January also have some farmers worried and hesitant to spend money on bait, gas to run boats, and labor to check crawfish traps daily until conditions show improvement."
Crawish are an "excellent source of high-quality protein" low in calories, fat and saturated fat, according to the LSU AgCenter. They are also sources of vitamin B12, niacin, iron, copper and selenium. They are most commonly prepared boiled, but are served in a variety of dishes, such as gumbos, étouffées and pistolettes.
Most are harvested between December and June, with the spring months March, April and May being peak in the Bayou State.
Mississippi seafood market K & B Seafood posted to Facebook that farmers are not the only ones impacted.
"If you are able, please support your local farmers, docks, and boiling houses as this will be a really tough year for everyone involved," K & B Seafood wrote.
Baton Rouge TV station WVLA reports that average prices the week of Jan. 12 were $12.99 a pound, which is nearly double what it was the same time last year.
"Louisianians have been spoiled the last 5 years with an early start to crawfish season, some years as early as November and December, but 2024 is going to be different. We’re hopeful supply will pick up in the coming weeks, and prices should normalize in time for the Lenten season. But we have to be patient," Laney King, co-founder of The Crawfish App, told the station.
Louisiana is the largest harvester of crawfish in the nation, according to PBS NewsHour.