Crabber's families having trouble making ends meet

Crabber's family having trouble making ends meet

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - It's the peak of the crabbing season, and after a few bad years, the catch appears to be picking up. But if you think more crabs are making prices drop at your local market, don't get your hopes up.

"I'm baiting long lines, and take a crab claw and put them on the hook," said Chad Frantovich, who has been out all week, earning a living on the water.

On Friday he baited his lines with crab parts he caught Thursday in a Lake Pontchartrain that appears to be getting more productive.

"Last couple of years been a little slow," he said. "Seems to be a little better. This year picked up - a lot of females showed up."

Prices appear to fluctuate depending on which dock you deal with. Frantovich sells most of his crabs in the Slidell area.

"On factory crabs 50 cents, on twos 80 cents and number ones $3.25, a pound," said Frantovich.

But in the Delacroix area, some crabbers and their families appear to be having a tough time.

"Lynn and I have been together for eight years, and this is the worst year we've ever had," said Jess Alfonso.

Her husband, Lynn, said St. Bernard docks are only paying him $2.75 per pound for large number one crabs, down from $3.50 a pound last year, and his wife says the family's hurting.

"I'm going to have to get an extension on my light bill now. I've never had to do that," said Jess.

But prices at your seafood market appear to be as high as ever, with one North Shore market selling number ones for $40 a dozen, with smaller number twos going for $29 a dozen.

"This is wrong, what you're doing is wrong. We want to pay our bills," said Jess.

Though the industry has its ups and downs, Frantovich said he's doing what he loves.

Sometimes I get sick of the smell, but never eating them," he said.

For many people, this mainstay Louisiana industry is a Godsend, especially with the current downturn in the oil industry. Though prices fluctuate, Frantovich  gives thanks to the seafood industry since oil field work dried up. But for him, that's about to change.

"Hopefully next week, will be getting back at it," said Frantovich.

The Alfonso family weighs its options.

"I think I will have to go back to working, which upsets me," said Jess Alfonso.

In the meantime, the crabbers keep doing what they always do - wondering about prices, which to many, don't make sense.

State numbers on crab landings only go back to 2009, when officials reported more than 53 million pounds of crab were caught.  Figures since then are hard to come by, but state officials say that number has dropped by anywhere from 15 to 20 percent in recent years.

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