Crawfish … by any other name would still be really, really good!

 

FROM PEPPER BOWEN

There are four seasons in Louisiana: Shrimp, Crawfish, Crab, Oyster … and in that order. They loosely correspond with the seasons occurring rest of the country. If memory serves, those are winter, spring, summer, and fall. But that is neither here nor there.

What is important is that there was a time when everyone knew to only eat oysters in months that end in “r”. However, modern seafood farming and booms in commercial fishing have brought us to a time where it is possible to get really good seafood outside of those windows. There is disagreement as to the merits of such actions. Although, die hards, such as myself, are known to continue to prescribe to “eating with the seasons” like nature intended. Some are thrilled to enjoy seafood for longer seasons and relish in the idea of not being bound by convention.

Each season has its own style, as it were. Blue crabs molt and lend themselves to soft shell crab po-boys. Those shells grow back and they are just right for boiling NOT steaming (I don’t even know why that is a “thing”) and eating as is or adding to another dish. Oysters can be eaten on the half-shell, fried, or char-broiled. All ways go well with Sazeracs, in my humble opinion. Shrimp are bar-b-que’d, which has nothing to do with a grill, or boiled, broiled, baked, or sautéed. Finally, Louisianans have a tendency to celebrate the end of Lent and kick off summer fun (and festival season if you live in New Orleans) because the heat that really starts in Spring. That celebration comes with an obligatory crawfish boil, tapping a keg, and immense gratitude for even having such a tradition.

The glorious red swamp crawfish is of humble origins. Once considered trash food and relegated to the poorest of the poor, over time it has been elevated to restaurant menus and the dining tables of even the poshest homes – even if that table happens to be in the yard for the afternoon. It is for this reason the petition by the Center for Invasive Species Prevention (CISP) citing the Lacey Act and calling upon the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to add the red swamp crawfish to the injurious wildlife list[1] gives me great pause.

To begin, the Lacey Act is a literal Act of Congress passed in 1900 and amended in 2008 that makes it illegal to import any species of plant or animal that is protected by law; but also prevents the spread of invasive species.[2] The point of it is simply ensure the safety and preservation of native plant and animal species, which is something we can all agree is desirable.

However, CISP has attempted to have the red swamp crawfish added to the list of invasive species due to claims that it has made a home in parts north, east, and west of the swamp from which it originally hailed. The petition would in effect criminalize the sale of crawfish and the sellers thereof.

Why would anyone float this as a good idea, you might be asking yourself.  Well, it is because CISP believes the red swamp crawfish is among the 42 animal species that “don't provide "any essential economic or other benefits" that outweigh their current and potential harm to the United States.”[3] So let’s talk about the economic impact Louisiana seafood, including crawfish, has on the US.

According to the Louisiana Seafood Board[4], 1 in 70 jobs in Louisiana are part of the $2.4M annual seafood industry. Crawfish as an industry specifically has over 1,000 farmers and 800 commercial fishermen. They collectively produce 110M pounds of harvested crawfish creating a $120M economic impact on the state’s economy.  But that isn’t the only economic impact I could easily find. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service[5], US consumers spent $91.7B for fishery products in 2014 while the commercial marine fishing industry contributed $45.3B to the Gross National Product. And of the 5.7B pounds produced, Louisiana was responsible for 870.5M, which objectively appears to be a substantive economic impact.

So what says the US Fish & Wildlife Service? Their September 29, 2016 press release[6] advised that the final rule on injurious wildlife did list a crawfish – the yabby crawfish, which is indigenous to Australia, Victoria and South Wales, Queensland, and parts of the Northern Territory.[7] They assert “[w]ith this final rule, we are protecting native wildlife and the habitats on which they depend, while averting the economic strain that often accompanies the establishment of invasive species.”

And on that we can all agree.

 

 

Citations:

[1] “CISP files multi-species listing petition with US Fish & Wildlife Service – per Lacey Act”, Peter Jenkins, September 26, 2016, found at http://www.nivemnic.us/cisp-files-multi-species-listing-petition-with-us-fish-wildlife-service-per-lacey-act/ Last visited December 7, 2016.

[2] “Lacey Act”, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service International Affairs, https://www.fws.gov/International/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/lacey-act.html Last visited December 7, 2016.

[3] “Proposed regulation could hurt La. Crawfish Industry” Megan Wyatt, http://www.wwltv.com/news/proposed-regulation-could-hurt-la-crawfish-industry/363885531 Last visited December 7, 2016.

[4] Louisiana Seafood http://www.louisianaseafood.com/industry Last visited December 7, 2016.

[5] Fisheries of the United States 2014, Current Fishery Statistics No. 2014, http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/Assets/commercial/fus/fus14/documents/01_Front2014.pdf Last visited December 7, 2016.

[6] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Service Acs to Prevent Harm to Native Wildlife from Nonnative Species, https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=service-acts-to-prevent-harm-to-native-wildlife-from-11-nonnative-species-&_ID=35820 Last visited December 7, 2016.

[7] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yabby (Cherax destructor), https://www.fws.gov/injuriouswildlife/pdf_files/Cherax_destructor_WEB_9-15-2014.pdf Last visited December 7, 2016.