A well-known part of Louisiana’s culture is the state’s unique cuisine and the celebrations and gatherings which surround it. During late winter and spring, Louisiana’s state crustacean, the crawfish, is at the heart of many celebrations. The crawfish, an easily recognizable icon in Louisiana’s rich history and economy, has made an important impact on the state.
The two species of crawfish harvested for commercial use are the Red Crawfish (Procambarus clarki) and White or River Crawfish (Procambarus acutus). While looking very similar, the White Crawfish has one slender and one large pincer and inhabits deeper bodies of water when compared with the Red Crawfish which has two large pincers and is commonly found in bayous, ditches, and swamps. Although the characteristic habitat location varies among the two species, most harvested boil sacks contain both Red and White Crawfish. Both species’ living environments surround wetlands and coastal regions where the aquaculture industry has skyrocketed and continues to thrive.
Crawfish are important to Louisiana’s economy, and more than 7,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the crawfish industry. Crawfish provide an abundance of jobs as they are caught by fishermen, sold, processed, distributed, and shipped, and then finally make their way to customers or onto a restaurant table. Technology has advanced the methods of harvest such that crawfish farming has developed into the largest freshwater crustacean aquaculture industry in the United States. Louisiana leads the nation in crawfish production with nearly 800 commercial fishermen harvesting from wetlands like the Atchafalaya Basin and more than 1,600 farmers harvesting in some 111,000 acres of ponds. The total impact on the Louisiana economy exceeds $300 million annually, with a combined annual yield ranging from 120-150 million pounds.
Eat more crawfish, cher!