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Expert Predicts Ample, Affordable Crawfish In 2007

LOUISIANA - Louisiana consumers begin looking forward to crawfish almost as soon as the holidays end. Some producers already are harvesting, and it looks like 2007 will be a good year for crawfish, according to an LSU AgCenter expert.

Boiling is one of the ways Louisianans enjoy preparing crawfish. Now, an expert says relocations caused by the 2005 hurricanes may be expanding that tradition of crawfish boils to other areas.

"There are some ponds that are already producing really well for this time of the year," said LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Dr. Greg Lutz, adding that a decent crop could mean good prices for consumers.

"I think the typical consumer approach to crawfish is: Can I get it and can I afford it?" Lutz said. "And I think the answer to both of those questions will be ‘yes’ this year."

What happens in the summer affects the outcome of the spring’s crawfish crop. Dry summers have devastated the crawfish industry in the past, but this summer stayed wet enough to encourage good survival and reproduction in the crawfish burrows.

"Overall it looks like we got through the summer and fall in pretty good shape," Lutz said.

Recent rain events have helped keep the ponds fresh, the water quality good and oxygen levels up. Other weather conditions also have helped the crop, according to the LSU AgCenter expert.

"It’s been a fairly mild winter, and that just lets the crawfish keep growing all through the winter," Lutz explained.

When the water temperature stays above 50 degrees, the crawfish eat more and grow larger.

On the downside, however, Lutz said remnants from Hurricane Rita and the salt water the storm brought inland are still affecting a few crawfish ponds in southwestern Louisiana. The salty conditions made it difficult to plant vegetation in some rice fields that are double-cropped with crawfish. Without such vegetation, crawfish don’t have a good food supply through the fall and winter.

"They live off the natural animals and bacteria and all the things that would normally break down the vegetation," Lutz explained. "That is what feeds the crawfish."

The storms also moved crawfish consumers around, but Lutz says there is a silver lining to this factor.

"The great thing is if you’ve got a family from Louisiana that decides to throw a crawfish boil for their new friends and neighbors, it helps to introduce that product outside the typical marketing area for crawfish," he said.

Crawfish acreage this year is slightly lower than recent years. But Lutz said he expects producers will harvest from about 100,000 acres of crawfish ponds.

Last year, Louisiana’s pond-raised crawfish, which were harvested from about 117,000 acres, had a gross farm value of $40 million, according to the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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