By Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
By now you’ve probably seen the story out of Michigan about the “Louisiana red swamp crawfish” being an invasive species.
That story by Paula Tutman has been shared more than 45,000 times, has more than 21,000 comments. Tutman is an Emmy Award winning reporter. What her story did not win was the empathy of many in Louisiana, where crawfish are a tradition, a way of life and even a means of making a living.
Louisiana does understand the destructive potential of invasive species and other pests. Wild hogs destroy thousands of dollars of crops each year, nutria destroy levees and lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico interfere with fishing and shrimping.
Christian Richard is a rice and crawfish farmer in Vermillion Parish and he’s a man with a solution to Michigan’s problem. However, first and foremost, it’s not something he thinks of as a problem.
“Well, we don’t really deal with them we welcome them,” Richard said. “It’s big business for our farming operation. We’ll go and set these traps out and we’ll just put bait in the top, we’ll run them daily.”
Tutman’s report from Michigan breathlessly reported as many as 200 crawfish in a single pond. Richard said that’s a pretty good catch—for one trap.
“Just in the peak of harvest we may be looking at anywhere between 50 and 75 crawfish just in one trap and in this field right here,” Richard said. “If it’s 60 acres and we have 600 traps, I mean you can do the math and really come out with a pretty substantial number.”
The solution Richard has is a common sight around south Louisiana, bobbing in flooded fields every spring.
“I think that there’s probably a few local guys who’d be more than happy to accommodate them in whatever capacity or whatever habitat they’re finding these crawfish in,” Richard quipped. “These are 52- inch pyramid traps. From what I’ve seen on the video they have something that’s kind of a similar design but you know, I guess if they’re only shooting to catch 200 then you know, it’s probably not that big of a deal.”
What is a big deal is the economic impact crawfish have for farmers like Richard who depend upon it and rice alike.
“Crawfish is very valuable for south Louisiana,” he said. “In fact, we really don’t have any other rotational crops to rotate with our rice crops and it’s a natural fit. The rice crop provides the habitat for the crawfish to grow in.
“We’ll reseed a rice field in June with crawfish from another neighboring pond,” Richard added. “We’ll actually take them out of that pond and we’re going to throw them into a rice field. Then usually in September or October, we’ll re-flood the fields and hopefully the crawfish come back out of their burrows. We’ll put traps out around Thanksgiving and then we’ll start trapping after the first of the year.”
So, it’s a good time for us to help our neighbors to the north before things really come to a boil.