Crab supplies low for Easter weekend due to lake algae and other factors

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - One impact of the spillway opening will be felt this Easter weekend, traditionally a busy weekend for seafood sales.

If you're looking for crabs, you may be out of luck.

"Crabs, there are no crabs in the place none at all," said Merlin Schaefer, with 'Schaefer and Rusich' seafood.

Deanie's has some crabs, but two of Bucktown's busiest seafood dealers are completely out in part because of the algae bloom.

"It's always a concern. We will let them test the waters and then we will come back," said Clint St Philip with 'Captain Sid's Seafood'.

But there are other factors in play as well. The state currently has a two-month ban on the taking of female crabs to help boost crab populations and demand on the east coast is also hurting local availability.

"The ones they are catching, Baltimore raised the price so high. Guys are going straight to the dock with them," said Schaefer.

Lake watchers say rough weather like we're having today and wind out of the north could help push some of the bloom out of Lake Pontchartrain, but they say the threat of more blooms will continue for about three more months.

And bottom dwellers, like crabs, could suffer even longer.

"Eventually that bloom will die, and when it's degraded that will hurt the water column, some fish could get out of the way. But oysters and clams stay put," said Brady Skaggs, Ph.D., with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

Seafood dealers not having crabs right now, isn't all bad.

"It's kind of good we don't have them right now because we don't have the pot space," said St. Philip.

That's because with Good Friday and Easter approaching demand for crawfish is high.

"We'll probably boil 10,000 pounds. On Good Friday we will triple our numbers," said St Philip.

And crawfish prices are dropping a bit and holding steady.

"This year, they have a good catch and there should be no price hike," said Schaefer.

Though crab prices seem high locally, seafood dealers say people in the Baltimore area are paying two to three times more. It could be several more weeks before crab stocks rise once again.

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