Louisiana's bait shortage and the impacts it's creating

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Posted at 6:55 AM, Mar 18, 2022

In 2007, the Amelia Bait Company closed it's doors.

It was the last bait company in Louisiana. It's closing was the first domino to fall in what would eventually become a shortage of bait across the state.

Since it's closing, Louisiana has relied on the east coast for its bait, importing a majority of it from out of state wholesalers for several years until Daniel Edgar opened his own bait company.

So for the last ten or so years, it's been able to keep up with demand, keeping Louisiana and its expansive seafood industry stocked with bait.

Yet over the last several years, different factors have come together to put a crunch on Louisiana's bait supply making it hard to come by and even more expensive to purchase.

The first is simply more people are eating what we typically would have called bait.

Instead of selling various species of fish as bait, there's more money to be made by sending them to canneries or to distributors that will sell them as a culinary fish.

And this isn't necessarily just a Louisiana problem. All seafood is linked globally, so a reduction in what is considered a "bait species" is being felt across the world.

This, along with some of the other Covid related supply chain issues, have put a crunch on the east coast market and means less product in the country.

What is a uniquely Louisiana problem, however, is the typical crawfish season and the season for Gulf menhaden.

While fisherman tell me there are plenty of menhaden to catch for bait, the season is closed during crawfish season which requires the most bait in Louisiana.

The crawfish industry has undergone a massive expansion over the last ten to twenty years. And each new farmer harvesting crawfish is a new farmer looking for bait.

Since the two seasons don't line up, it comes down to storage and how much bait can be stored and saved for crawfish season.

The lack of bait has real impacts on the farmers who are trying to harvest. The scarcity has caused a jump in prices.

Ross Thibodeaux, a crawfish farmer in Crowley, said that the price per pound has gone up 30-40 cents.

While that may not sound like a lot, farmers typically will use a pound of bait per acre almost every day. The cost, they said, add up quick.

Farmers have noticed that not only is bait more expensive, but it's also harder to find. It's something that's particularly concerning as we have yet to get into the busy part of the season.

The cost of bait then trickles down to the consumer, meaning that the shortage of bait will likely mean a boost in those prices.

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