Talks set on sick crawfish

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
23 May 2007, at 1:00am

US - State officials will meet with crawfish farmers tonight to discuss precautions to limit the spread of white spot disease, a crustacean virus confirmed this month in four crawfish ponds in Acadiana.

Diane Stacy, left, a veterinary medical officer with the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and Blanchard's Crawfish and Bait owner Linda Blanchard place crawfish in a plastic bag Tuesday while conducting a survey to detect the presence of white spot disease.

The disease is not harmful to humans but has the potential to cripple the crawfish industry if not kept in check.

The discovery of white spot disease this month has prompted widespread testing of crawfish ponds, wild crawfish from the Atchafalaya Basin and crawfish delivered to peeling plants — all in an effort to identify the source of the virus and whether it has spread.

The disease comes just as some crawfish farmers are preparing to stock ponds for next season, raising questions about white spot in “seed” crawfish obtained from the Basin or other farms, said Mark Shirley, southwest regional aquaculture specialist for the LSU Agricultural Center.

The center and the Vermilion Farm Bureau will host a meeting tonight in Kaplan to discuss the issue with farmers.

Shirley said farmers are being advised not to restock ponds that were in production this year.

“You do not have to restock ponds every year,” he said. “There are plenty of crawfish left in the field after you stop fishing.”

He said farmers considering new ponds are being directed to carefully screen any seed crawfish for the disease.

“Don’t take the chance of introducing possibly infected crawfish into the pond,” Shirley said.

He said crawfish with the disease — if not dead — will usually appear sluggish and weak.

White spot disease is named for the abnormal calcium deposits on the shells of infected shrimp, but crawfish with the disease don’t always exhibit the spots.