A common practice during the current Lenten season is to abstain from meat on Fridays. Because of this, Catholics turn to seafood as an alternative source of protein.
As both a predominantly Catholic and coastal state, Seafood reigns king in Louisiana. But other than being a consistent meal option, Fishery Specialist Julie Lively says seafood serves as a vital source of income to much of Louisiana, especially during Lent.
“Seafood is huge to the Louisiana economy,” said Lively. “After only Alaska, we’re the largest seafood producer in the United States. We’re the leading producer of a variety of seafood such as menhaden, crawfish, crab, usually oysters and usually shrimp.”
With such high demand, Louisiana residents step up to the plate and fill the abundance of coastal jobs needed to provide the massive amount of seafood to not just the state but the country.
“It just provides a lot of jobs both as direct fishermen and then as in the economy as it goes through processing, shipping and everything else,” said Lively.
While seafood is always popular in Louisiana, Manager of LA Boilers, Clay Davison says the Lenten season drives people to purchase more seafood on one particular day of the week.
“Fridays have gotten quite a bit busier, especially on pretty days like last Friday,” said Davison. “We’ve had a line from our counter to out the door, and that was for 10 hours straight.”
Although this can be the most profitable time of the year for the seafood industry, looking at these 40 days from another angle can show how they double as some of the most difficult to maintain.
“We have had to hire more employees, said Davison. “We’re going from having 2 people a day during crab season to upward of 5 to 6 if necessary a day on weekends during crawfish season.”
But even hiring more employees doesn’t ensure the high demand for seafood during Lent will be met.
“We ran out due to the income of Friday and Saturday, we ended up running out that Sunday,” said Davison.
And sometimes businesses like LA Boilers run out of seafood, not because they didn’t prepare, but because of circumstances out of their control.
“The blue crab fishery had three years in a row they did a small closure to help the population and the years that it overlapped with Lent, the fishermen were really upset,” said Lively.
Despite some roadblocks during Lent, it’s an incredibly profitable time for everyone involved in the Louisiana seafood industry.
Lively says that it’s hard to know the exact amount of money the Lenten season brings to the Louisiana seafood industry because a lot of companies are privately owned. Still, she’s in close contact with several fishers who report spikes during this time that contribute to the $2.4 billion the seafood industry brings to Louisiana.