Weather and Crawfish: What does too much or too little rain mean for crawfish season?

Louisiana News

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTVE/KARD) – Crawfish season is a few months away and with everything happening in the world, what can fans of these little critters expect as we get ever closer to lighting fires under our boiler pots? The LSU Ag Center is researching how the weather impacts the crawfish harvests.

The harvest can be impacted by the weather. Weather variability can have a costly effect on the industry, which has experienced considerable growth over the past two decades. For example, the 2018-19 Louisiana crawfish season produced 151.8 million pounds of crawfish with an economic value of $209.5 million compared to 82 million pounds valued at about $45 million in the 2004-05 season, according to the LSU AgCenter.

To help inform farmers, researchers at LSU are the first to quantify how rainfall and temperature affect crawfish harvest yields.

“Providing farmers and producers with more information on how their catch and livelihood may fluctuate due to environmental conditions can help make them more resilient in the future,” said Vincent Brown. Brown is an Assistant Professor at LSU and the Director of Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program; Brown also was the lead author on this study published in Climate Research.

LSU researchers analyzed eight years of crawfish harvest data from six LSU Aquaculture Research Station ponds. They used a statistical model to identify the most significant temperature and weather variables that impact crawfish.

“The timing of precipitation is really important. The statistical model shows that if you have heavy rainfall in August or September, the crawfish harvest yields will be suppressed in the spring,” Brown said.

Heavy rain in the summer can cause the crawfish to move from their burrows too early. This can lead them to moving in to water with low oxygen, heavy amounts of decaying plant matter, and high summer heat. All of these conditions are not good for growing healthy crawfish.

“We have seen how the low amount of dissolved oxygen in a pond can directly affect the survival rate of crawfish. This issue is something that we are continuing to study and develop best practices with the farmers to combat,” said C. Gregory Lutz, LSU AgCenter Aquaculture Research Station professor, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program marine extension agent and study co-author.

Also, in the winter months, if the temperatures drop below freezing it can slow the growth of crawfish.

Researchers believe this information can help farmers plan where and how to allocate their resources. For example, if there is excessive rain in August and September, then dry conditions in October and November, plus freezing temperatures in January, farmers will most likely not need to set three to four days per week aside to harvest in February. Researchers say, it is possible the farmers could just harvest twice a week; saving them money on bait, labor, gas and other costs.

“This study can also serve as a template to investigate the impacts of weather on other farm-raised seafood products,” said Mark Shirley, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program and LSU AgCenter marine extension agent and co-author of this study.

You can find more about the effect of meteorological variables on the crawfish harvest in Louisiana, here.

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