Crawfish season is here, yet some popular places like Louisiana – the largest crawfish producer in the country – are without the delicacy as restaurants and seafood suppliers are struggling to get their hands on it.
Trudy Alexander, the owner of Kenner Seafood, said she has been shipping crawfish around the United States for nearly three decades.
Alexander said she normally sells about 10,000 pounds of live crawfish a week, but this year she does not have any. She is relying on what she has frozen from last season.
"In all the years, I’ve never seen us not have crawfish at this time of the year," she said. "The phone is ringing nonstop for crawfish."
New Orleans is in the swing of carnival season with Fat Tuesday just weeks away. Alexander said Mardi Gras, Lent and the Super Bowl make this the biggest time of the year for crawfish.
"It is that time of the year people are used to eating boiled crawfish," she said. "The only thing available right now is the frozen Louisiana crawfish that some fisherman have put up. That is what you are going to get. There are no live crawfish to be gotten."
Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, said the summer’s extreme heat dried out fields and made it tough for crawfish to survive.
"We lost the water that we normally need to flood the fields and keep the fields flooded. And so the rice fields basically dried out and there was insufficient water to keep it flooded and flooded at such a depth to be conducive for crawfish to start breeding and then growing," Strain said.
Garrett Frey, Wholesale Crawfish Seller with Four Oaks Farms, said the recent cold snap in Louisiana caused some crawfish farmers to walk away empty-handed during harvests. Crawfish are not active in cold temperatures and do not move to traps.
"It puts them in a dormant state and it affects the growth majorly because they are not moving around and they have to stay still. They can’t move, they can’t eat and when that happens they don’t grow almost at all and it affects the size and everybody wants big crawfish," Frey said.
Strain said warmer temperatures in Louisiana may help save the season.
"The ideal temperature for crawfish is about 85 degrees. They can function in the upper 40s and 50s. The colder it is, the less they feed and the less they go to traps. When it warms up, we get a nice warm period close to Easter, they will be eating more and growing faster and we’ll be able to catch them," he explained.
Strain added there will likely be higher prices and less availability for crawfish around the country.