NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - When it comes to crawfish, Louisiana is a state of firsts. In 1983, our state was the first to name crawfish our official crustacean. On Tuesday, history was made once again at the old U.S. Mint in New Orleans.
As crawfish season is underway, the mint rolled out the red carpet - not for a VIP, but a VIC - a very important crawfish.
Meet Emile, the first Louisiana crawfish to be officially spared from the boiling pot in the first annual "pardoning of the crawfish." He's lucky, considering millions of his kind will be pulled, pinched and sucked in Louisiana restaurants, kitchens and backyards from now until Easter.
Emile was a wanted man.
"Well Emile, if you look at him, he comes from a good breed," said Troy Parria with Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing. "You can tell where he's from - South Louisiana, where you get the best breed of crawfish."
It doesn't take long to see this isn't just any old mudbug - Emile has appeal. Take it from Mayor Sherbon Collette of Henderson, LA, who caught him and decided to give him up.
"The pincers, the pincers are different shades on the pinchers like this, and you can see it's a lot of color on this crawfish," Collette said. "You see the red, so they're pretty much the same, but this one's a little different."
Even the crawfish queen herself shelled out some high praise.
"I think he's perfect for the job," said Queen of the Louisiana Crawfish festival Alexis Wilson. "He proved himself today. He was in the tank dancing to the music. He was waving his claws at everyone. He was photo ready. I think he'll be great for this historical moment."
Emile was named after the founder of Zatarain's, and while Cajun spices will season tons crawfish this year, the far-reaching proclamation from the lieutenant governor ensures that Emile will never become a meal.
"Emile is getting up in age, you can see he's got a couple years on him," said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. "And we brought him from the Achafalaya Basin, where crawfish are in abundance. And we'll release him into a state park where he should be safe from capture."
And with that, it's now official. Instead of facing a pot, paddle or plate, Emile will enjoy safety and sanctuary in Bayou Segnette, and all the fame his newfound freedom entails.
Here's a little food for thought: Louisiana provides a whopping 90 percent of the domestic crawfish supply.