By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on Tuesday, December 11 2012
Despite increasing overseas demand, Louisiana blue crab supply has declined over the past two years, suppliers say.
“We are putting out a tremendous amount of effort for a little bit of crabs this season,” said Gary Bauer, president of processor Pontchartrain Blue Crab. Local blue crab supply from Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne are down about 40 percent this season, so Pontchartrain Blue Crab has had to source elsewhere.
“Historically, I have never had to go all over the state [to source blue crab],” Bauer said.
Other crabbers and distributors are experiencing the same problem. “In the 27 years I have operated this business, I have never, ever had an October where the females weren’t running strong,” said Daniel Edgar, owner of St. Mary’s Seafood, located east of Cypremort Point, La.
Luke’s Seafood in Dulac, La., typically ships 15,000 to 20,000 live crabs daily at this time of the year. Currently, it is only shipping around 5,000 crabs daily.
Annual Louisiana blue crab landings have averaged 40 million pounds in recent years.
There are a number of theories on why Louisiana’s blue crab supply has dropped over the last year or two.
“For my area, there is always a big question about the [BP] oil spill, but there may be a reduction from the dam on Lake Pontchartrain,” Bauer said. After Hurricane Katrina, a dam was installed at the opening from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Pontchartrain. “Is that going to have a long-term effect? Is that blocking the smaller crabs from entering the waters?” Bauer said.
Whatever the reason, Pontchartrain Blue Crab and other suppliers may be missing out on export business. “There is a lot of interest in blue crab from China, but the supply doesn’t currently support additional interest,” Bauer said.
Despite lower blue crab production so far this season, some suppliers expect supply to pick up this winter.
“It looks like it is going to be one of the better winters. It is better now than it was two months ago,” said Pete Gerica, a Chalmette, La.–based crabber who sells at the local farmers’ markets.