When someone eats crawfish for the first time, the first thing that might come to mind is “Who the heck figured out how to eat this?” At least, it’s something I think about as I observe all the work required for the itty bitty reward. In fact, crawfish, like many crustaceans have been eaten for centuries by Native Americans and early settlers until our modern boils today. Fossil records show the oldest fossilised burrows are in Australia from 115 million years ago!
While we’ll never know for sure who plucked the first crawfish from their freshwater home, we do know the first recorded commercial harvest in the US was in 1880. Most of these crawfish were caught in the wild and still today more than 800 fisherman harvest crawfish from the Atchafalaya Basin and other areas. Wild crawfish are coveted for their size and sweeter meat. During the Great Depression crawfish sold for $.04/lb.
In the 1960’s crawfish farming caught on as rice farmers found a use for their ponds during the November - June crawfish season. As crawfish supplies improved to meet demand, demand started to grow. With advances in technology and transportation crawfish made their way out of backyard boils and onto menus at the city’s best restaurants. Now, crawfish are consumed throughout the country!
Today, Louisiana provides 70-90% of the crawfish consumed in the United States. More than 150 million pounds are harvested each year and 7,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the $300 million crawfish industry.