Area shrimpers’ dock day postponed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‎‎July 28, 2015

LAROSE – The Lafourche-Terrebonne area Louisiana Fisheries Forward Shrimp fisheries dock day scheduled for Wednesday, August 5 in Larose has been postponed due to speaker scheduling conflicts and other concerns. This program, which will offer industry updates and hands-on demonstrations of refrigeration and other technologies, will be held at the Larose Regional Park and Civic Center Pavilion sometime in the first quarter of next year.

The event, sponsored by Louisiana Sea Grant, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the LSU AgCenter, is designed to keep Lafourche and Terrebonne area commercial fishermen up to date on new technology, best practices for quality and handling, and safety news and regulations.

Again, the area shrimpers’ dock day scheduled to be held in Larose on Wednesday, August 5 will not be held on that day and is being postponed until sometime early next year.

More information, as it becomes available, will be posted at bayoulog.com/events and the “Louisiana Fisheries” Facebook group. Additionally, here are a couple of good links to some of the information that will be covered at the meeting and about direct marketing and selling processed seafood: 1) lafisheriesforward.org/fisheries/shrimp and 2) www.seagrantfish.lsu.edu/program.

Media Contact:
Alan Matherne
Marine Extension Agent
Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter
amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu
985-873-6495 – bayoulog.com

Posted in Fisheries, Seafood | Leave a comment

Proper handling of seafood ensures quality and safety

Column Article for: Cajun Sportsman
Submitted: July 10, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Proper handling of seafood ensures quality and safety

Handling seafood safely helps to maintain quality and wholesomeness.

We all know that seafood is best when cooked and eaten as soon as possible after being taken from the water. But this does not mean seafood cannot be kept good and wholesome long after the catch.

Whether the fish or shellfish has been freshly caught or just bought, you must always take care to preserve its wholesomeness. To safely handle and maintain the quality of seafood, always follow these general guidelines:

  • Keep seafood cold.
  • Don’t cross contaminate (keep raw and cooked seafood separately).
  • Know your seafood seller.
  • Fish to be consumed raw should be frozen first (kills the parasites).
  • Cook fish thoroughly.
  • Buy and/or harvest raw shellfish carefully.
  • Keep “live” shellfish “alive”.
  • Refrigerate live shellfish properly.

All fresh or smoked seafood should be refrigerated at 32-40 degrees. The best way to thaw frozen seafood is under refrigeration (let it thaw-out in the refrigerator or on ice before using). Also, if you’re in a hurry, quick thawing can be done under cold running water if necessary. You should do it with the original wrapping intact. You should keep frozen seafood rigidly frozen until ready to use, stored in a freezer at zero degrees.

Always handle raw and cooked seafood products separately. Clean and sanitize the work space between the preparation and serving of seafood. Don’t allow raw and cooked seafood to come in contact with each other.

You should buy your fish and shellfish only from approved and licensed stores, markets, and fishermen.

If you plan on serving raw seafood dishes such as ceviche, sushi, or sashimi, freeze the fish first to kill any harmful parasites.

Fish is thoroughly cooked when it begins to flake and reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Raw oysters should be bought only from approved reputable sources. Also, if you are able legally harvest oysters yourself, be sure the area you get them from is an open, approved area.

Live shellfish such as crawfish, crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters, or mussels should not be cooked and eaten if they have died during storage.  Also, store live shellfish under well ventilated refrigeration, not in air tight plastic bags or containers. Live shellfish will keep longer when stored in the refrigerator with damp paper or cloth towels covering them.

Finally, remember that all raw foods contain bacteria. You should handle seafood just as you would any other perishable food products. Keep your fish and shellfish properly refrigerated, cook it adequately, and avoid things such as cross contamination. By doing this you will be assured that you and your family always enjoy safe and healthy seafood meals.

Bon appétit!

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 Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Cajun Sportsman, Fisheries, Seafood | Leave a comment

Area shrimpers’ dock day will extend learning opportunities

News Column: COASTAL CURRENTS
Submitted: July 8, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Area shrimpers’ dock day will extend learning opportunities

Educational extension services provide information and outreach to various audiences in many creative and non-traditional ways. Agricultural extension realized years ago that farmers tended to learn and adopt recommended practices better if they were presented in a hands-on “field” environment. Thus, “field days” have been and still are used as an important educational tool for the LSU AgCenter. Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter, in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, has extended and adopted this concept in the facilitation of coastal fishery “dock days”.

An area Louisiana Fisheries Forward “Shrimp Fisheries Dock Day” will be held at the Larose Regional Park and Civic Center Pavilion (307 East 5th Street) beginning at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, August 5. This event will offer industry updates and hands-on demonstrations. It is designed to help keep area commercial fishermen up to date on new technology, best practices for quality and handling, and safety news and regulations.

Workshop topics to be covered include: Updates & statistics on the shrimp industry; TEDs, shark guards & gear modification; Refrigeration & freezing best practices including — plate freezing demonstrations, new technology equipment displays, brine tank charging & testing methods; Coast Guard fishing vessel safety demos; and New marketing & outreach techniques.

New for this dock day is Louisiana Fisheries Forward’s just completed refrigeration and freezing technologies mobile trailer unit. Custom built by local refrigeration experts, housed aboard this trailer are self-contained plate and brine freezing units as well as other refrigeration devices. Fishermen will be able to get onto the trailer and experience first-hand how these refrigeration technologies work. Actual demonstrations with real seafood products will be conducted.


This event, produced by the Louisiana Fisheries Forward program, will help shrimp fishermen better understand shrimp industry trends, refrigeration and freezing technology, and best handling methods — enabling them to better produce a safe, select Louisiana quality shrimp product. More information concerning Louisiana Fisheries Forward and the programs being developed for Louisiana’s commercial fishing and seafood industry can be found at the website lafisheriesforward.org.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided at the Shrimp Fisheries Dock Day. The program is free and open to all interested persons and registration is not required.

For more information as it develops about this program, including flyers and agendas for the meetings, just go to bayoulog.com. Also, all those interested in current developments, trends, and discussions surrounding fisheries in Louisiana may want to check-out and join our Louisiana Fisheries Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/215555731880124 (or just search for Louisiana Fisheries in Facebook).

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 Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Coastal Currents, Fisheries, Seafood | Leave a comment

Cook-up that fresh catch of delicious and nutritious seafood

Column Article for: Cajun Sportsman
Submitted: June 26, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Cook-up that fresh catch of delicious and nutritious seafood

Okay, now that you’ve caught those fish, crabs, and shrimp … what to do with them? Well, eat them of course! In addition to being great fun to harvest, seafood products are also great tasting and great for your health.

Seafood is highly nutritious and very beneficial health wise. Most seafood is low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; high in protein; low in calories (a 3-1/2 ounce serving of white-fleshed fish typically has less than 100 calories); and low in sodium. It is also a good source of vitamins and minerals and, as a bonus, it’s quick and easy to prepare. Consequently, because fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, the American Heart Association and others recommend eating two 3-1/2 ounce servings of fish a week.

Note that because some fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish can contain mercury, consumption of those fish should be limited for most of us and avoided by some such as pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and children under the age of 12. Other than that note of caution, seafood products should be considered safe, healthy, delicious, and nutritious sources of high-quality protein.

Don’t overcook your seafood. Fish cooks quickly and should be cooked only until the flesh turns opaque and flakes easily with a fork. If you overcook seafood it will toughen up and lose a lot of its natural flavors. A good rule of thumb to follow when preparing fish is to cook it about 10 minutes per inch of flesh, measured from the thickest part. (Conventional cooking only, not microwaving.)

Seafood can be cooked using a variety of methods besides traditional frying. Why not try poaching, steaming, baking, broiling, sautéing, or microwaving your next fish or shellfish meal? It’s healthier than frying and can be much more flavorful.

Poaching is really easy. Simply bring a seasoned liquid (water, milk, wine, etc.) to a boil then simmer it for about 10 minutes. Next add your fish, cover, and simmer until done.

Steaming is surprisingly simple. It’s especially easy if you happen to have one of those specially designed steaming pots. If not, don’t despair … just use a rack of some sort to suspend the seafood a couple of inches above the boiling water. Cover and steam until done.

For broiling, place your fish on a broiling pan and brush it with a sauce of melted margarine and/or olive oil combined with lemon juice and herbs and spices. Broil 4 or 5 inches from the heat source, without turning, until done.

Sautéing. In a frying pan, heat a little margarine and/or olive oil with a liquid such as water or white wine. Add some chopped mushrooms, green onions, lemon juice, and your favorite seafood. Sauté this mixture over medium high heat until it’s done.

An excellent method of cooking seafood is by microwaving. Just put the fish or shellfish in a microwave-safe dish, add seasonings, and cover the dish with plastic wrap. Cook for about 3 minutes per pound or follow the manufacturer’s directions. It doesn’t get any easier than that, and clean-up’s a cinch!

Herbs and spices can be used in place of salt and can be combined to produce flavorful seafood dishes with a creative flair. If you are not familiar with using herbs and spices, here’s a simple way to get started. Just combine ¼ teaspoon of 1 or 2 herbs and/or spices per pound of seafood. Some common herbs and spices that work well with seafood are: allspice, sweet basil, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, celery seed/leaves, chervil, curry powder, dill seed/weed, fennel seed, garlic powder, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, and thyme.

Other seasonings like garlic, lemon, and wine can be combined with the herbs and spices with interesting results. Some good combinations are basil, marjoram, and oregano; garlic powder and lemon; or parsley and tarragon.

Be bold and creative and see what happens. Spice up your life with seafood! In today’s health conscious society we’re eating foods that are lower in calories, sodium, and fat; and consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, skim milk products, and low fat protein sources. Seafood fits right in and complements these new health trends. A wide variety of seafood products are available which provide an excellent high protein source that is great for low calorie, low fat cooking.

Here are a few additional facts concerning the healthy aspects of eating seafood from the LSU AgCenter’s publication “Health Benefits of Seafood”:

– A 3 ounce serving of seafood provides 50-60% of an adult’s daily protein needs.

– All seafood is relatively low in fat.

– Most seafood is low in cholesterol except for shrimp, squid and fish roe.

– Seafood also provides the diet with iron, iodine, zinc, niacin, B-complex vitamins and phosphorous.

– Fatty species of fish provide generous amounts of vitamins A and D.

– Fish with bones, like canned salmon and sardines, are good sources of bone-building calcium.

– An average 3-ounce serving of fish cooked without fat has about 85 calories making it a low calorie food.

– Try not to add extra calories by frying or using cream or cheese-based sauces with seafood.

For more information concerning the nutritional benefits of seafood go to LSUAgCenter.com and search for “Health Benefits of Seafood” and download the publication of that name.

Remember, the American Heart Association and others say that seafood is a healthy and nutritious “heart food”. Now, go clean that fresh catch you’ve got out in the cooler and cook-up and enjoy some healthy and delicious seafood … it’ll do you and your heart a lot of good.

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 Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Cajun Sportsman, Seafood | Leave a comment

Rip currents: Break the grip of the rip!

News Column: COASTAL CURRENTS
Submitted: June 06, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Rip currents: Break the grip of the rip!

It is Rip Current Awareness Week and, according to Dr. Chris Houser of Texas Sea Grant, there have been an unusual number of rip drownings this spring. For that reason a survey concerning rip currents is currently being conducted. According to Dr. Houser and Dr. Rob Brander of the University of New South Wales, they are “… using the survey to determine what people know about rip currents and what they understand about the hazard from the warning signs you typically see at the beach.” Anyone interested in participating in the study can do so by going online and completing the survey at https://tamu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_e8NBaghB7R7VETr. Or you can go to the NOAA rip current website listed at the end of this article and click into the survey from there.

“Rip Currents: Break the Grip of The Rip!” is the slogan for a nationwide campaign to make people aware of the dangers of rip currents and how to escape them safely. Each year over one hundred people drown in rip currents. Along our Gulf Coast, during the period of 1999 through 2013, over 350 people died due to rip currents. Florida had the highest number of fatalities at 297 followed by Alabama with 29 then Texas with 25 and Louisiana with 3.

Rip currents are channelized currents of water that flow away from the beach shore out into the gulf or ocean. They’re formed when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water along the shore. The water seeks to escape from the shoreline area and return back offshore. This sometimes results in a narrow stream of water that moves quickly offshore … a rip current. People sometimes call these currents “undertows” or “riptides”, but those terms are not correct and should not be used when talking about rip currents. Rip currents pull people out to sea not under.

Rip currents can be as narrow as 10 to 20 feet or as much as ten times wider than that. Sometimes the water in rip currents can travel very slowly, almost unnoticeable. At other times these currents can flow at speeds of over five miles per hour, faster than an Olympic swimmer can swim.

So, what to do if you’re caught in a rip current? First, don’t panic and don’t try to swim against the current. Rip currents generally only go out a short ways offshore, then pan out. It’s sort of like being caught on a treadmill: no matter how fast you walk forward, you can’t get off. The thing to do is to either quit walking and be pulled off, or step to the left or the right and get off. The same principle applies to rip currents. Don’t swim against them. Either let the current pull you out then swim back, at an angle, to the bank, or just swim to the left or the right of the current, parallel to the shore. Once out of the rip current, then swim back to shore.

A NOAA fact sheet on rip currents recommends that if caught in one:

– Try to remain calm to conserve energy.

– Don’t fight the current.

– Think of it like a treadmill you can’t turn off. You want to step to the side of it.

– Swim across the current in a direction following the shoreline.

– When out of the current, swim and angle away from the current and towards shore.

– If you can’t escape this, try to float, or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore.

– If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

More information concerning rip currents — what they are, the dangers, and how to escape — is available at NOAA’s National Weather Service Rip Current Safety website: www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. They also have a great online training program called “Break the Grip of the Rip”. It is interactive and has nearly 30 modules covering everything from rip current fatalities by state to how rip currents are formed and how they kill, to how to escape rip currents and how to become more aware of rips and the dangers involved in encountering them. Going through this course would be a great way to prepare you and your family should you face any rips on your next beach adventure.

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 Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Coastal Currents, Coastal Issues, Environment | Leave a comment

Stay safe, be aware of beach dangers

Column Article for: Cajun Sportsman
Submitted: May 29, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Stay safe, be aware of beach dangers

Heading out to the beach this summer season? Great, enjoy the fun in the sun, but keep it fun by being aware of and taking proper precautions. Some of the potential hazards that may be encountered at the beach include: lightning, sharks, jellyfish, sunburn, and rip currents. Using a little common sense when confronting these situations will help ensure many safe and enjoyable beach ventures.

Lightning. Each year in the U.S. an average of 62 people are killed by lightning. Remember … when thunder roars, go indoors! The safest place to go is inside large enclosed buildings. Picnic shelters, sheds, and other smaller shelters don’t provide adequate protection from lightning strikes. If there are no enclosed buildings around, the second best places to go are enclosed metal vehicles such cars, trucks, and vans — but not convertibles, soft-tops, and bikes. After the storm has passed, you should wait at least 30 minutes following the last thunder crack before going back out into the open and onto the beach.

Sharks. Actually, the risk of being involved in a shark attack is very small. They do occur sometimes though, generally in near shore areas around sandbars. Sharks tend to feed in these areas and sometimes confuse humans with other prey that they are seeking out. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests following these tips to help reduce your chances of becoming shark bait:

– Don’t swim too far from shore

– Stay in groups — sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual

– Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight when sharks are most active

– Don’t go in the water if bleeding from a wound — sharks have a very acute sense of smell

– Leave the shiny jewelry at home — the reflected light resembles fish scales

– Avoid brightly-colored swimwear — sharks see contrast particularly well

Jellyfish. While all jellies sting, not all of them have poisons that hurt people. They should be avoided though, just in case. Be careful around areas with warning signs concerning jellyfish. Also, watch out for the tentacles even if they aren’t attached to the jellies. Suggested first aid for sting wounds is washing the area with vinegar or rubbing alcohol (not water) and sprinkling meat tenderizer on the wound or putting a baking soda and water paste on the sting. Anyone experiencing an allergic reaction should seek medical attention.

Sunburn. Too much sun can spoil the fun! And you might not even realize it until much later, as it can take up to 24 hours before full damage is noticeable. Be sure to take proper precautions including avoiding prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, sporting hats, and applying sun blocking lotions. First degree burns (skin redness and peeling) should be treated with cool baths and bland moisturizers or hydrocortisone creams. Blistering second degree sunburns can be very serious if covering a large area. Symptoms of severe burns include headache, chills, and fever. Medical attention is advised for second degree sunburns.

Rip Currents. Each year over a hundred people drown in rip currents. A few years ago four people (one from Louisiana) drowned in rip currents on the Alabama coast. Also, in 2009 in Grand Isle, a young girl from Baton Rouge was rescued from a rip current by two Houma brothers.

Rip currents are channelized currents of water that flow away from the beach shore out into the gulf or ocean. They’re formed when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water along the shore. The water seeks to escape from the shoreline area and return back offshore. This sometimes results in a narrow stream of water that moves quickly offshore … a rip current. People sometimes call these currents “undertows” or “riptides”, but those terms are not correct and should not be used when talking about rip currents. Rip currents pull people out to sea not underwater.

Rip currents can be as narrow as 10 to 20 feet or as much as ten times wider than that. Sometimes the water in rip currents can travel very slowly, almost unnoticeable. At other times these currents can flow at speeds of over five miles per hour, faster than an Olympic swimmer can swim.

So, what to do if you’re caught in a rip current? First, don’t panic and don’t try to swim against the current. Rip currents generally only go out a short ways offshore, then pan out. It’s sort of like being caught on a treadmill: no matter how fast you walk forward, you can’t get off. The thing to do is to either quit walking and be pulled off, or step to the left or the right and get off. The same principle applies to rip currents. Don’t swim against them. Either let the current pull you out then swim back, at an angle, to the bank, or just swim to the left or the right of the current, parallel to the shore. Once out of the rip current, then swim back to shore.

According to NOAA, if you find yourself caught in a rip current:

– Try to remain calm to conserve energy.

– Don’t fight the current.

– Think of it like a treadmill you can’t turn off. You want to step to the side of it.

– Swim across the current in a direction following the shoreline.

– When out of the current, swim and angle away from the current and towards shore.

– If you can’t escape this, try to float, or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore.

– If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

Practice common sense and observe these simple precautions so that you and your family can enjoy many safe, healthy, and happy days at the beach. Have a great summer!

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 Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Cajun Sportsman, Coastal Issues, Environment | Leave a comment

Fish and seafood trivia

News Column: COASTAL CURRENTS
Submitted: May 12, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Fish and seafood trivia

Fisheries and seafood topics provide a real “gumbo” of interesting facts, myths, and misconceptions.

Add to this sauce some authentic Louisiana Cajun flavor and what you’ve got is a well-seasoned helping of “Fish & Seafood Trivia”.

Through the years, I’ve managed to compile quite a few bits and pieces of interesting fisheries facts . . . trivia if you will (yes, I’m an info pack rat too). Here are some of the more interesting items I’ve come across. See how many you can answer correctly.

  1. What is a “bouillabaisse”?
    A. It is a highly seasoned (pepper and spices) stew of red snapper, redfish, or other seafood and various kinds of vegetables. In France, sturgeon and perch are used to prepare the dish. The name of this fish stew originates from Modern Provencal “bouliabaisso” which literally means boils and settles. “Bouli” is to boil and “abaisso” means to settle or subside.
  2. What fish is known as “Poisson Arme” (armed fish) by the Cajuns and what is the significance of this name?
    A. This is an appropriate name given to the garfish that inhabit Louisiana waters. The gar has long narrow jaws full of sharp teeth and its body is armored by a covering of hard protective scales. The Choctaw Indians knew the gar as “strong fish” . . . “nani kallo” or “nani kamussa.” They made use of the gar’s sharp teeth to scratch or bleed themselves and their pointed scales to arm their arrows. Today gar meat is highly prized by central and north Louisiana residents, and the scales are fashioned by innovative Native American and other bayou dwellers into jewelry, decorative plaques, napkin rings, and other knickknacks.
  3. What common Louisiana fish’s name translates to “milk bag”?
    A. Because of its slivery olive appearance and beautiful white flesh, French-speaking Cajuns call the White Crappie (Proxomis annularis) “sac-a-lait”, meaning “bag of milk” or “milk bag”.
  4. What is “Cajun Caviar” and from what fish does it come from?
    A. “Cajun Caviar”, as it is known, is caviar made from the roe (eggs) of the bowfin (Ami calva). Cajuns know this fish as “choupique”. Choupique is a derivative of the Choctaw Indians’ “shupik”, which aptly means “mud fish.”
  5. What is a “caiman” (pronounced KI-MOA) or “cocodrie” (pronounced COCO-DREE)?
    A. These are Louisiana Cajun French names for the alligator.
  6. What is a “caouane” (pronounced COW-AN)?
    A. It is the Cajun French name for the alligator snapping turtle (freshwater), better known locally as a “loggerhead” because of the extremely large size of the head (circumference may reach up to 25 inches).
  7. How many species or different kinds of fish are there?
    A. Scientists estimate that there are from 20,000 to 40,000 species of fish found on earth; many of these are still undiscovered!
  8. What is the world’s largest fish?
    A. That would be the whale shark. Measuring in at over 50 feet long, it can weigh several tons.
  9. What is the world’s smallest fish?
    A. Growing to less than 1/2 inch at adulthood, the goby (found in lakes in Luzon, Philippines) qualifies as the smallest known fish.
  10. How can they tell how old a fish is?
    A. There are two methods commonly used to age fish. Growth rings are counted on either fish scales or otoliths (small inner ear bones) in a manner similar to counting rings in a tree. The rings generally correspond to seasonal changes in the environment. Otolith ring counts are generally more accurate than scale ring counts due to the fact that scale rings are often influenced by other, non-seasonal factors.
  11. How long do fish live?
    A. Some small reef fishes live for only a few weeks or months, while other fish, such as sturgeons, have been known to live for 50 or more years.
  12. Is fish flesh very salty?
    A. Actually, in most cases, the flesh of fish contains very little salt. So little in fact, that many doctors recommend it in salt-free diets. One exception though is the shark, whose meat is salty — as salty as the water in which it lives.
  13. Are saltwater catfish edible?
    A. Absolutely! The two species found in U.S. waters, the gafftopsail catfish and the sea catfish (hardhead) are both good to eat, with the gafftopsail catfish considered the more delectable.

Do you have any fish and seafood mysteries that you’d like solved? Do you know a fisheries/seafood related fact that others might find interesting. If so, contact me and we’ll look into using it to add just a little more spice to our future fish and seafood trivia sauce.

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Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Coastal Currents, Fisheries, Seafood | Leave a comment

Setting Louisiana’s shrimp seasons

Column Article for: Cajun Sportsman
Submitted: May 04, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Setting Louisiana’s shrimp seasons

Ever wonder how they set the opening date for our spring inshore brown shrimp season? If so . . . read on.

Louisiana’s shrimp fishery consists primarily of two species: the brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus) and the white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus). The shrimp fishery is Louisiana’s most valuable commercial fishery with approximately 5,500 shrimpers licensed to commercially harvest shrimp here. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), in 2012 (the latest year for which complete data are available) nearly 102 million pounds of shrimp were landed in Louisiana with a dockside value of just over $146 million. That makes Louisiana the number one supplier of domestic shrimp in the country.

Louisiana’s shrimp industry started over a century ago with a handful of fishermen using haul seines and cast nets. Trawling began at first with wooden sailboats in the mid-1800s. This led, in the early 1900s, to the use of Model T and Model A engine powered wooden luggers.

By the 1980s, shrimp trawling gear and vessels had become substantially more sophisticated with the use of advanced multi-rig otter trawl designs and butterfly nets aboard vessels ranging from twin-diesel steel-hull “super slabs” to high-powered fiberglass skiffs.

Finally, the 1990s brought us more advancements in trawling effort with various double-rig setups for inside waters and the even more recent development of “skimmer rigs” or, more simply, “skimmers.”

What was once an industry supporting just a few fishermen using relatively simple gear has evolved into a highly competitive commercial and recreational enterprise engaged in by many thousands of people utilizing the latest in sophisticated gear, equipment, and vessels.

As a consequence, the necessity for more rules and regulations governing the management of Louisiana’s shrimp fishery has also evolved into the many and complex shrimp laws found in today’s law books.

In the early ’60s, recognizing the need for a more flexible spring shrimp season, fishermen and fisheries managers got together and came up with the management criteria that are currently being used to set the spring inshore brown shrimp season.

This measure calls for opening the season when it is predicted that at least 50 percent of the shrimp in inshore waters will reach 100 count per pound. One hundred count shrimp are considered the minimum marketable size.

From the mid-1960s through the 1970s, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) was able to show that brown shrimp growth and survival is directly related to water (hydrologic) conditions found in inshore coastal marsh and water areas (nursery grounds) during the spring months, with April being the most critical month. The most important hydrologic conditions (parameters) are salinity and temperature, with higher salinities and temperatures associated with better shrimp growth and survival.

Biologists continuously take samples at hundreds of locations throughout coastal Louisiana. In addition to monitoring hydrologic conditions of the nursery grounds, biologists watch shrimp growth by sampling the shrimp from the time they enter the estuaries as small 1/2 inch post larvae until shrimp leave the inshore waters as larger, harvestable adults and subadults.

In order to be able to manage shrimp on a regional rather than statewide basis, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (WFC) in 1975 divided the state into three shrimp management zones. Accordingly, “Zone 1 extends from the Louisiana/Mississippi state line to the eastern shore of South Pass of the Mississippi River. Zone 2 extends from the eastern shore of South Pass of the Mississippi River to the western shore of Vermilion Bay and Southwest Pass at Marsh Island. Zone 3 extends from the western shore of Vermilion Bay and Southwest Pass at Marsh Island to the Louisiana/Texas state line.”

The WFC is required by law, R.S.56:497A(7), to “. . . fix no less than two open seasons each calendar year for all inside waters by zone, based upon biological and technical data which indicates that marketable shrimp, in sufficient quantities, are available for harvest.”

They are also required to hold a public hearing prior to the opening of a shrimp season, and at that meeting to present biological and technical data concerning the shrimp season, and to set an opening date for the season based primarily upon the data presented. The WFC also takes public testimony from interested citizens relative to the opening of the spring inshore brown shrimp season.

This year’s public shrimp hearing will be conducted at the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s meeting to be held at 9:30 AM on Thursday, May 7 at the Wildlife and Fisheries Headquarters Building located at 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge. At that meeting, biologists from the LDWF will present biological and technical information used to predict the percentage of shrimp in inside waters at the 100 count level at certain dates.

This generally leads to opening dates for the spring, inshore, brown shrimp season of sometime in May. The season then normally runs through June and ends sometime in July. Different zones may have different opening/closing dates depending upon the biological and technical data and public input. The fall, inshore, white shrimp season generally runs from August through January.

Last year, the earliest spring, inshore, brown shrimp opening was on May 26 in a portion of Zone 2. The other two zones opened on June 2. As for when this year’s spring inshore brown shrimp season will begin . . . we should know that after the May 7 WFC meeting.

The most up to date information concerning Louisiana’s shrimp seasons and regulations can be found at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/fishing/shrimp-0.

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Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Cajun Sportsman, Fisheries, Seafood | Leave a comment

Crawfish: a Louisiana legacy

Column Article for: Cajun Sportsman
Submitted: April 15, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter

Crawfish: a Louisiana legacy

Throughout the history of Louisiana (especially in the south) crawfish have been a highly sought-after food source. Early French settlers as far back as the mid-1700s caught crawfish with the “bait-on-the-string” method. And by 1880, a commercial production of 10,000 pounds of crawfish worth $800 was reported in a government publication.

By the 1920s, annual commercial production averaged about 100,000 pounds. Because of problems such as inefficient capture methods (primarily dip nets), lack of adequate highways and a transportation infrastructure, and poorly developed preservation methods, growth of the industry proceeded slowly until the 1930s. By then, improvements in gear, transportation, and preservation, along with population increases in south Louisiana, made possible significantly increased commercial catches.

From the 1930s up until the late 1940s, all crawfish production was from the wild. Production during that period averaged about a million or so pounds per year.

The first reported crawfish pond production occurred in 1949 when a rice farmer re-flooded his rice field after the fall harvest. By keeping his field flooded, crawfish growth was facilitated and production of a farm-raised crop was enabled. In years since then, farm ponds were established for the exclusive purpose of growing crawfish. Crawfish aquaculture is currently done by farming in ponds, flooding swamps, and in rotation with rice production.

Although crawfish are cultivated for food in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and are consumed in these and many other states, Louisiana continues to dominate the North American crawfish industry. In fact, farm-raised crawfish has become Louisiana’s most valuable aquaculture commodity. During the 2013-2014 season, approximately 127 million pounds of farm-raised crawfish, worth about 172 million dollars (to the producers), were harvested and sold. And our appetite for the tasty little crustaceans just seems to keep increasing!

But what about this delectable little shellfish we affectionately know as the mudbug? What are its characteristics and habits and what makes it such a great animal for aquaculture production?

Found on every continent in the world except Africa, there are over 300 species worldwide. In North America we have two hundred or so different types of crawfish. And although over twenty species are found in Louisiana, the two species of greatest importance here and in the southern U.S. are the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) (left) and the white river crawfish (Procambarus zonangulus) (right).

Our crawfish are temperate animals, meaning they live best in areas that are neither too hot nor too cold. They generally live for two years or less, have high juvenile survival rates, and can spawn year-round with females being able to reproduce more than once per year.

The life cycle of crawfish has evolved to allow it to adapt to the cycles of low-water dry and high-water flood conditions found in nature. Crawfish farmers capitalize on this by reproducing these conditions in their farm ponds.

Mature crawfish mate in open water in the spring. Sperm from the male is stored in the female’s seminal receptacle. As water levels go down in later spring and early summer, females burrow into the ground and holdup there for the summer. In the burrows, females spawn and the eggs are attached to the underside of the tail. After hatching, the young crawfish tend to stay with the female for several weeks even though they are no longer attached to her.

Pond flooding in the early fall allows crawfish to emerge from their burrows and move about the pond. Hatchlings quickly become separated from the female and go about foraging and growing. After a period of growth over the fall and winter, the young of the year crawfish mature and become large enough to reproduce. Following the winter, these crawfish mate in the spring and … the cycle is repeated.

Farmers start harvesting crawfish beginning around November and continuing through about April-June. About two-thirds of the Louisiana farm-raised crawfish crop is harvested from March through June. So, now through late spring – early summer is the best time to enjoy one of our favorite Louisiana legacy foods … the crawfish!

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 Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.

Posted in Aquaculture, Cajun Sportsman, Crawfish, Fisheries | Leave a comment

Lafourche dock day rescheduled due to shrimp season opening

Press Release

Lafourche dock day rescheduled due to shrimp season opening

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‎Friday, ‎April 17, 2015

LAROSE – The Lafourche-Terrebonne area Louisiana Fisheries Forward Shrimp & Crab fisheries dock day scheduled for Wednesday, April 22 in Larose has been rescheduled due to an offshore shrimp season opening on that same day. This program, which will offer industry updates and hands-on demonstrations of refrigeration and other technologies, will be held at the Larose Regional Park and Civic Center Pavilion on Wednesday, August 5.

The event, sponsored by Louisiana Sea Grant, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the LSU AgCenter, is designed to keep Lafourche and Terrebonne area commercial fishermen up to date on new technology, best practices for quality and handling, and safety news and regulations. Specific topics to be covered include: fishery task force updates; TEDs, shark guards & gear modifications; quality shrimp & LaTer Direct Seafood; boat freezer applications; shrimp & crab updates & statistics; US Coast Guard safety demonstration; using refractometers with brine tanks; and a nano-ice machine demonstration. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

More information, including the event flyer and agenda, will be posted at bayoulog.com/events.

Media Contact:
Alan Matherne
amatherne@agcenter.lsu.edu
985-873-6495 – bayoulog.com

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Posted in Fisheries, Seafood | Leave a comment