Whether you like your seafood peeled, shucked, fried or stuffed; in a beignet or in an etouffée, head out to the Louisiana Seafood Festival in City Park (or the Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, if you’d rather) this weekend. And even as you enjoy the food, drinks, art market and live music there, you can feel good about the fact that you’ll be doing way more than just taking in some good tunes and some great gumbo. You’ll also be taking part in a tradition and way of life that goes back over 400 years. While the Seafood Fest itself has only been around for about 10 years now, seafood in all its many dishes has been helping make Louisiana great for centuries.
Not only do we know how to make seafood taste amazing once it hits the pot, grill or fryer, but we are also experts at getting it into the kitchen in the first place. Lt. Gov. William H. Nungesser said, “As a state, we produce more than 850 million pounds of seafood each year. Louisiana is the number one contiguous U.S. producer of shrimp, oysters, crabs, crawfish and alligator in the nation, and we’re a close second for fish.” With 7,221 miles of beautiful Louisiana coastline, these statistics aren’t surprising. But, to break it down further, according to the Louisiana Seafood Board, Louisiana catches about 313,000 alligators and 110,000 pounds of crawfish every year. (Incidentally, that’s more alligators than the entire population of the country of Barbados and enough crawfish to equal the weight of two and a half streetcars ). Not to mention, approximately 70 percent of all oysters caught in the U.S. come from the Gulf.
But it’s not just about the catching and cooking of these tasty creatures. Seafood is also a crucial part of our culture as well. Whether it’s gathering at a crawfish boil, dancing at a seafood festival, or sharing a po-boy at a favorite restaurant, seafood has been bringing folks together for fun and festivities throughout the history of our state. Said Nungesser, “Seafood and unique cuisine is the root of so many of our traditions and celebrations here in Louisiana. Louisiana food connects locals and visitors to the state’s diverse heritage.”
It also greatly helps our economy. The Louisiana Seafood Board says that one in every 70 jobs in Louisiana is seafood-related, which accounts for about $2.4 billion a year! Specifically, they say that shrimp alone provide close to 15,000 jobs at an economic impact of $1.3 billion for the state. Nearly 4,000 folks are gainfully employed thanks to oysters. Crabs provide employment for approximately 3,000, and there are at least 1,800 mudbug-picking crawfish farmers and fishermen within Louisiana.
But this weekend, forget the numbers and simply enjoy the Seafood Fest. Never mind that a third of all the domestic seafood eaten in the contiguous U.S. states comes from our fine state of Louisiana … just go out and eat some. There will be plenty of delicious seafood dishes to choose from, from Crawfish Egg Rolls to Voodoo Shrimp and Grits to Crabmeat Ravioli. As Nungesser said, “From New Orleans Creole to bayou seafood, you can’t eat wrong in our state.”
Money raised at the Louisiana Seafood Festival goes to help the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation in their mission to support children in the community in the areas of education, health and social welfare. Their programs and fundraisers work towards offering children “greater access to culinary education and arts, community outreach, hospitality industry financial assistance and benevolence.” This year, the Foundation will donate funds to help those members of the hospitality industry affected by the recent flooding in Louisiana. For more information, go to louisianaseafoodfestival.com/about.